Gandy Dancer Books, Bonnie Dahlstrom, Webster, WIWebster’s Gandy Dancer Bookstore Celebrates 20 Years
By Harriet Rice

There are still people out there who like the feel of the pages in a real book: hard cover or paperback. Those are the people who’ve been customers of Bonnie Dahlstrom’s Gandy Dancer Books on Webster’s Main Street for the past 20 years!

What is now the bookstore used to be the Calico Kitchen which had been closed for a year when the owner was ready to sell. “I had six weeks to gut the building and have shelving built and installed,” Dahlstrom recalled. “The Webster High School football team moved all the books in on a weekend, and customers helped shelve the books. One of the funniest things was when one of my customers said ‘Danielle Steele just called and said she finished another novel – so save space’!”

It was actually Linda Germain from Siren who started the bookstore which was housed in the space now occupied by Fresh Start Coffee Roaster. Dahlstrom filled in for her occasionally. “When Linda retired to Arizona, she gave me the opportunity to purchase the business. I retired the year before and was looking for something to do,” says Dahlstrom. “The bookstore is a hobby, one that I love.”

A favorite attraction for vacationers
It was Germain who started the buy, sell, trade procedure that’s in place today. That’s where 99 percent of the books come from: people bringing them in for trade credit toward the purchase of more books. Her customers are local and seasonal residents, visitors and cabin owners – many of them from the Twin Cities. “I have customers who come for vacation in the area once a year and tell me one of their favorite stops is the bookstore,” comments Dahlstrom. “They’re all ages. I have a 2-year-old who has his own trade credit account!”

It’s a treasure trove of every genre of book you can think of: fiction, nonfiction, historical, romance, westerns, mystery, biographies, horror, Christian, self-help, cookbooks, gardening, crafts, humor, sports, hunting, fishing, young adult and children’s books – more than 100,000 in all. Books cover every surface in every nook and cranny.

Dahlstrom used to keep records on recipe cards – until technology took over. Now titles are entered into her computer. As she gets many more books than she has room for in 2,500 square feet, she donates the excess to prisons, the Larson Family Library, thrift stores, and to non-profit groups for fund-raisers.
Operating that business is a major labor of love. Dahstrom’s staff are all volunteers, some of whom have been with her 15 years. Sue Wilson, Dawn Nelson, and Robin Lorang and Dahlstrom comprise the current team behind the counter when the bookstore is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Month-long celebration activities
Volunteers past and present are helping with the 20th anniversary celebration throughout the month of May. Special events include book signings. On May 14, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Webster’s own Dr. John Ingalls will sign copies of his fifth and latest novel, Codex of San Rocco. Readers can also bring in copies of any of his books for him to sign. Beth M. James will be on hand at the same time on Saturday, May 21 to sign her books that include Gitana and The Calling. Both authors’ books are available on Amazon.

In addition to the signings, every Saturday there will be homemade refreshments and a fish pond where children can “fish” for books. Books will be discounted 20 percent and audio book 50 percent all month. There will be door prizes daily and a drawing on Saturday the 28th for the grand prize: a quilt designed and created by Dahlstrom herself.

Plans for the bookstore’s future? “We’ll just continue to cater to our readers. I love all the wonderful friends I’ve met through the years. I love talking to them about books and life in general. [the bookstore’s] a wonderful place to come and chat,” says Dahlstrom.