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By Kris Decker
December 1, 2002
Name: The Red Balloon Bookshop
Store Location: 891 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota,
Owners: Michele Cromer-Poire and Carol Erdahl
Name and Title of Interviewee: Michele Cromer-Poire,
the story it’s named after, The Red Balloon Bookshop isn’t
afraid to find its own path. An independent children's bookseller,
The Red Balloon last month celebrated its eighteenth year of business
in the Twin Cities. The curious need only consult the local press
for proof of the store's enduring charm. Minnesota Monthly's readers
voted them "Best Selection of Children's Books.” City
Pages named them "Best Children's Bookstore,” and Minneapolis
St. Paul Magazine has dubbed them "Best Children's Bookstore"
so many times that the store has been put in their "Hall of
Monthly: What makes The Red Balloon so special?
Cromer-Poire: "Selection is very, very important,"
says co-owner Michele Cromer-Poire. "The store's walls are
covered with books. By conscious choice our stock is almost exclusively
books." In fact, less than 20% of The Red Balloon's collection
is games, music, or interactive play puppets, and most of those
have book tie-ins.
have always wanted to look like a bookstore, feel like a bookstore
and act like a bookstore," Cromer-Poire states.
being a children's bookstore isn’t all picture books and learning
your ABC’s. From its inception, The Red Balloon has made space
on its shelves for young adults, toddlers, and every age level in-between.
This larger niche focus was what Cromer-Poire and her partner Carol
Erdahl were intent on from the beginning—before they’d
1983, after a visit to a kids’ bookstore in Boston, former
school librarian Erdahl found herself thinking of opening a shop
of her own. Back in Minnesota, she began researching possibilities,
with one name cropping up again and again: Michele Cromer-Poire.
It turned out that Cromer-Poire, then a co-owner of Odegard Books
in St. Paul, had been toying with the idea of opening a children's
bookstore for some time. The two women met, pooled their talents,
and a year later The Red Balloon Bookshop opened its doors.
hit the ground running," says Cromer-Poire.
addition to a comprehensive selection, she maintains there is another
essential ingredient to their success. "Our staff is an outstanding
group of people," she says. "These people know books and
they know our customers well. They're astute about children's books
as well as children."
their success, The Red Balloon has no plans for additional locations.
"We do one store extremely well," explains Cromer-Poire.
If word of mouth is a reliable indicator, then customers agree with
the store publishes a regular newsletter informing customers of
special events and upcoming author appearances. They also produce
an interactive web site: (redballoonbookshop.com/NASApp/store/IndexJsp).
Visitors to the site can read-up on the latest happenings, order
books, and browse the store’s extensive inventory.
got a good reputation," Cromer-Poire says. "And we've
earned it by quality selection and a high level of customer service.
We strive always to improve both."
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