· By Sydni Kreps
2022: MTW'S FIRST YEAR
The first month of 2022 is where it truly all began! While on personal leave from my teaching job, I was sprawled on the couch one evening feeling sorry for myself when I glanced at the tattoo on my arm: “more than words” in my dad’s handwriting. I got this tattoo after he died because he said the phrase often and it reminded me to savor those feelings that were more than words could describe. I realized with a jolt that this was the perfect name for that dreamy bookshop that had always been in the back of my mind, and I texted my mom Traci a photo of it in a rush of excitement, telling her that THIS WAS IT! Thankfully, she didn’t scoff—she understood and encouraged me to take the next steps forward. So, I did!
The next step was to find an actual brick-and-mortar space where this bookshop could come alive. This month, I officially found the place we now call home and began the lease negotiation process. While on a much-needed family vacation in the sunshine, I received the news that my offer was accepted and cried tears of joy! This was it; it was happening. Fun fact: my great grandfather (my dad’s grandpa!) built the building we’re located in during the 1980s. It feels incredibly special to be in a space with so much connected history.
March was filled with learning and immersing myself in the wise words of other booksellers. Of course, I turned to books. Some standout titles were Rebel Bookseller by Andrew Laties and The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee.
Let the demolition begin! Our first delivery to the shop was an enourmous dumpster waiting to be filled. My cousin Cody Lapash and his family took the lead on knocking down walls and ripping out flooring to start the first phase of transformation at the shop.
This month was also Independent Bookstore Day—my favorite day of the year and the day that I officially announced my plans to bring More Than Words to Moorhead! I had just received the final proofs of Leah Ecklund’s perfect logo designs and was itching to put them out into the world. You all matched my excitement that day and for that I’m utterly grateful—the nerves were worth it! To celebrate, my best friend Danyel Moe and I spent the day visiting some favorite indie bookshops in Minnesota—Birchbark Books, Magers & Quinn, and Cream & Amber, to name a few. Being surrounded by so many book lovers and so many well-established bookish communities on that day was especially affirming.
After much thought, I officially decided that MTW would carry both new and used books. In order to start building my used book collection, I turned to my bookshelves at my family’s home and raided them for everything I could bear to part with (harder than it sounds, but easier knowing they’d be going to the shop).
Truthfully, I had a bit of a down month (grief is a messy, never-ending thing) and took a pause on the bookshop work. I adjusted my medication and slowly rediscovered my excitement amidst the overwhelm of this daunting undertaking. Again, I turned to books. I read one of my favorite books of the year, John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed, which helped me to rekindle my love for this thing we call Life.
I was back at it and continued to work my way through The Bookstore Training Group’s “Owning a Bookstore” manual (yes, this exists—there’s a book for everything). I also reached out to my old friend and interior designer Morgan Diehl May to officially help me design the bookshop space! She’s been invaluable when it comes to bringing my ideas to life and forcing me to make decisions. ;)
I was also lucky enough to inherit some beautiful furniture for the shop from my great aunt Corinne Stefanson, who owned the beloved boutique The Classic in the Moorhead Center Mall. With the help of some cousins and friends, we literally rolled and carried these pieces from the mall to the bookshop! The fixtures were also built by my great grandfather, and I’m so grateful to be surrounded by them at the shop where I’ll be reminded daily of the love and support of family.
I received the first gift inventory shipments this month! It was so exciting to open the mail each day and admire the new products that MTW would be carrying. I also made some big decisions on colors and finishes for the shop with Morgan—it was incredible to see the images in my mind start to materialize before my eyes!
I continued to receive fun packages in the mail full of journals, stationery, puzzles, and more! My apartment quickly turned into a warehouse as the shop was still under construction.
We also had our first photo shoot this month with photographer + friend Morgan Allora! She blew me away by capturing the essence of MTW with her lens and helping me tell our story in photos. Her work helped me to feel more “official” as a business and I can’t thank her enough!
A very busy month! We held our first pop-up shopping event in the shop’s parking lot and it was such a gorgeous and heart-warming day. I was giddy to see how many of you showed up to support MTW and humbled by the all the help from my family, my boyfriend Garrett and his mom, and my dear friends to make this event happen smoothly.
Later in the month, my mom and I traveled to St. Louis for the Heartland Fall Forum with the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association! We toured many indie bookshops, met so many helpful booksellers, and learned a lot about what was to come for us.
At the end of the month, we went live with our website and online shop! Danyel helped me plan and design this announcement and my cousin Jorden helped me make it all happen on the tech side of things—another moment of gratitude for the support so many have given me throughout every step of this.
We also painted the entrances of the shop in our signature green! A big thank you to my mom and Garrett for giving up a weekend and enduring hand cramps from so much brushing to help me transform the exterior of the shop. It made all the difference!
Baby steps toward a finished space! This month, the bathrooms were tiled, the flooring started going in, and the ceiling was painted (thanks again to my cousin Cody). Each completed project felt like a victory amidst the seemingly never-ending to-do list.
This month was also FULL of events! First, we were lucky enough to participate in Folkways’ Christkindlmarkt for 4 days at the Fargo Civic Center. We got to meet so many of you and help hundreds of people find the perfect books + gifts. Then, we followed that up by celebrating our first Small Business Saturday with a pop-up shopping event in our space. The support from the community on this day was so encouraging! Finally, we spent a night slinging books at Junkyard Brewing Co.’s first ever book fair with the other indie bookstores in the FM area—what a treat!
That brings us to this month—things are happening every day as we get nearer to opening! We started painting the shop walls (again, thank you mom and Garrett) and the rest of our flooring was installed!
We also held our last pop-up of the year in the shop and celebrated the holiday season with so many new faces who stopped by to say hello and shop for last-minute gifts. This was the perfect way to wrap up our first year!
Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, OUR BOOKSHELVES ARRIVED! Now to get organizing and fill ‘em up…