When some people retire, all they want to do is sit back and let others do the work. But for retired math professor Bob Dobrow and environmentalist Angel Dobrow, retirement was the perfect launching point for a new course of action: opening an independent used bookstore in Duluth. Granted, with Amazon on the rise, an indie bookstore such as the Dobrows’ Zenith Bookstore might sound more burdensome than invigorating for a retired couple. But as they adjust to a new chapter in life, so does the world of reading.
Despite the competition of online shopping and free two-day shipping, Bob sounds optimistic. “People want the real thing. There’s a coming-back, an uptick in brick-and-mortar bookstores,” he says. It’s true: In 2016, the number of indie bookstores nationwide actually increased for the eighth year in a row, according to the American Booksellers Association. Bob attributes this to readers wanting that in-person shelf-browsing experience that large retailers can’t provide. “People want a place where they can come in and people know their names,” he says.
At Zenith, visitors are greeted at the door with the store’s signature storefront mural, a stack of books painted larger-than-life by a Duluth artist. Built in the 1890s, the building still has its original rustic hardwood floor, with a high tin ceiling, warm lighting, comfortable reading chairs, and the lingering smell of pine bookshelves. When designing the space, Bob and Angel remained conscious of the residential location of their store and strived for a comfortable, inviting atmosphere. “People don’t want their communities to look like one giant Wal-Mart strip mall,” Bob notes.
The bookstore hosts an opening celebration this Saturday, September 16, from 1 to 4 p.m. Guests include local headlining authors Lorna Landvik, Brian Freeman, Linda LeGarde Grover, and Barton Sutter, with live music by Duluth-based folk singer/songwriter Teague Alexy. In the next few months, Zenith will host several more local authors, including Louis Jenkins and Chris Monroe, plus book club meetings.
318 N. Central Ave., Duluth