ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Now for a tale of love and mystery. A lot of mystery novels brought Gary Shulze and Pat Frovarp together. For 14 years, the two have run a beloved basement bookstore that caters to mystery lovers. Now they are retiring, and their Minneapolis store, Once Upon a Crime, is changing hands. A new family has bought it. To mark the end of this chapter and to find out what makes a mystery book store tick, we called Pat Frovarp. She worked at Once Upon a Crime before she became the owner, and she told me she actually met her husband, Gary, in a different bookstore.
PAT FROVARP: I was looking at books, and Gary and I had seen each other, but we didn't know one another. And he walked over to me in this particular bookstore and handed me a book by Teran and said, you've got to read this book; it's really good.
SHAPIRO: What was it about not just a love of books but a love of mysteries that brought you together?
FROVARP: Well, Gary was pretty doggone cute. There's no doubt about it. And I'd been single for a lot of years.
FROVARP: And - but I had no intention of getting married ever again. But when we worked in the bottom of the store and finally decided to buy the store, we figured that we really couldn't possibly be paying two rents plus the rent on the store. So we kind of gave it some thought, and Gary, one morning 'cause we were, of course, living together - tut-tut-tut (ph). And we were adults. And Gary handed me a note across the breakfast table and said, will you marry me - didn't dare ask me, but he did pass me a note. And we're pretty happily married.
SHAPIRO: Could you tell me the story of how you decided to buy this bookstore?
FROVARP: Well, truthfully we were walking around Lake Huron one night at about 10 o'clock or midnight - whatever. And I think, really, that's when we kind of started talking a little bit about buying the store. And it's like, oh, you're kidding. How can we possibly do that? Well, I suppose we could just kind of combine our resources and see if we can come up without enough money to buy it. And we almost did that, but we have some very good friends in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that kind of fronted us for the money we didn't come up with. And we paid that debt to them in no time at all because business was very, very good from the get-go because we just reached out to people.
SHAPIRO: The last decade has been so tough on independent booksellers, and so many of them have closed. What do you think allowed Once Upon a Crime to thrive?
FROVARP: We give good customer service. If a customer wants a book and we haven't got that book, we'll make every effort we can to find the book for them. I had an instance just this morning where a guy I've never seen before came in for a couple of books that I ordered from a dealer friend. And he came in and came back to the room we're in right now and bought some more books. And he said, boy, this place is great; I will be back. And generally, they come back because we do treat our customers well, and they like it a lot. And they're hoping that Meg and Dennis and Devin, their daughter who's going to be running the store - they want to keep running the store just like us, except their going to have a big presence online, which is something we've never done because we're a couple of luddites.
FROVARP: Bottom line.
SHAPIRO: A lot of people have devoted their lives to books. You've devoted your lives specifically to mystery books. What is it about the genre?
FROVARP: When you start out reading the Bobbsey Twins and The Hardy Boys when you're five years old, I guess you just kind of like mysteries. And I just like them even more now.
SHAPIRO: That's Pat Frovarp, the longtime owner with her husband, Gary Shulze, of the Minneapolis bookstore Once Upon a Crime. Thank you so much.
FROVARP: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: And if you're wondering what Pat Frovarp is reading these days, she recommends Lou Berney's novel "The Long And Faraway Gone." She says it's absolutely incredible.
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