Paperback Exchange celebrates 40 years

Credit: Marion Hersey is the third owner in 40 years at the Paperback Exchange. Photo by Michelle Bruch
Credit: Marion Hersey is the third owner in 40 years at the Paperback Exchange. Photo by Michelle Bruch

When Marion Hersey took over the Paperback Exchange around the corner from her house in 1991, romance novels were the fastest sellers.

“It was half of our sales,” she said. “Now instead of romance it’s mysteries and fiction that have taken over.”

The storefront at 2227 W. 50th St. previously operated as a grocery store, a coin and stamp dealer and the window shade store South Shades (run by William Ryan, whose daughter Sheila Rajendren co-owns the neighboring Sparrow Café).

“There aren’t that many stores like this left. … This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s just a scheme,” joked Hersey, a former math teacher for Minneapolis Public Schools. “Most people who have a store like this are in it for the love of books. … It’s a pretty neat place to be.”

The Hersey family is the third owner of the shop. It was founded by six women, and Hersey said their husbands could recall every bookcase they built for the store.

“Within the first month, they were building more bookcases,” she said.

Marion’s son Andy Hersey started working at the store in junior high, filing books for the prior owner. The owner suggested that perhaps his parents would like to buy the business.

“We love to read books, so we thought we’d better do it,” Marion said.

Andy continues to work at the store, and he’s collected the vintage paperbacks displayed next to the register.

“The art is generally better on paperback,” he said.

Marion said she likes to read every genre.

“I’m blessed that I never have to read a book I don’t like, because people come in and tell me what’s good,” she said.

Her current recommendations: “The Bohemian Flats” by Mary Relindes Ellis, and “Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger. Krueger will appear for a book signing May 17 from 2-3 p.m.