Booksmart moving into lower level of Cheapo Records building

Two of Uptown’s trademark small businesses are moving in together.

Later this month, Booksmart (currently located at 2914 Hennepin Ave. S. in East Isles) will open in the lower level of the Cheapo Records building (1300 W. Lake St. in Lowry Hill East). To prepare for the cohabitation, Cheapo is already in the process of moving its expansive collection of vinyl records upstairs, where it will now share floorspace with the store’s CDs and DVDs.

Booksmart owner Lee Rudrud said his lease at the prime two-floor Hennepin Avenue property recently expired, and Booksmart was asked to pay more if it wanted to stay.

“I suppose rent was just a little too much here, and I just couldn’t justify it with the product I’m selling,” he said, adding that Booksmart’s new one-floor space has “pretty much” the same square footage as the Hennepin property.

Neill Olson, Cheapo store director, cited a similar motivation for consolidating Cheapo from two floors to one.

“As the years go by, a record store this size maybe can’t sustain itself. Now, we can focus more on things besides just having the biggest space, like having the best store,” he said.

Although moving Cheapo’s record collection upstairs remains a work in progress, Olson said he’s already noticed that having vinyl on the main floor has encouraged some customers who wouldn’t normally have ventured downstairs to consider buying a record or two.

“People that traditionally don’t buy LPs are getting sucked in over there,” Olson said of Cheapo’s new upstairs record section. “So bringing the vinyl upstairs might grab the attention of consumers that usually wouldn’t go downstairs.”

Rudrud said that the move doesn’t mean he’ll be tinkering with Booksmart’s business model. The store will continue to sell new books and buy and sell used books.

And while it’s tough packing up and moving after more than a decade on Hennepin, Rudrud said there are silver linings. For one, customers will now have an easier time getting to his store, as Booksmart and Cheapo will share the surface parking lot along Lagoon Avenue.

Second, cheaper rent will help ensure that Booksmart remains in business and in Uptown for the foreseeable future.

“It’s great to be able to stay in the Uptown area, because this place deserves stores like this,” Rudrud said.

Booksmart’s move a couple blocks down Lake Street begs the question — what’s next for the commercial space at 2914 Hennepin?

Mike Finkelstein, the broker representing the landlord at 2914 Hennepin, said he expects a lease to be completed with a new tenant sometime later this week, but wouldn’t comment on specifics until the deal is done.