Cummings Books to close in December

The Dinkytown bookstore opened before Internet competition arose.

Jennifer Bissell

With his father being the “Johnny Appleseed of bookstores,” Jim Cummings is no stranger to books.

Growing up, he watched his father start bookstores in Wayzata, Stillwater and Minneapolis, and in high school Cummings got his own start carrying books at what is now his competitor in Dinkytown, the Book House.

“The joke was, âÄòLook, little Jimmy can walk. Look, he can carry a book,âÄô” Cummings said.

Now, after 14 years of running Cummings Books in Dinkytown, Cummings said it is time to move on. The store will close Dec. 31.

“IâÄôve been doing this so long and IâÄôm kind of excited for new opportunities,” Cummings said. “IâÄôm still making money here. IâÄôm still doing well, but the book business has changed.”

Cummings said that when he started in 1996, there was no competition from the Internet, but over time, he has seen it grow into a “bigger and bigger” threat.

“At first I thought this is great; I can sell my âÄòFly Fishing of Montana,âÄô which I could never sell in the store,” Cummings said.

But after selling more books online, Cummings said he began to see its effects on his store and how competitive online selling can be.

“IâÄôll put a book up for $8 and it will be the lowest price. The next day IâÄôll look and there are three other ones for $7.95,” Cummings said. “So weâÄôre all kind of undercutting each other.”

Additionally he said he prefers selling books in person because he can see who heâÄôs selling to and the smiles on his customersâÄô faces when they go to check out.

Sarah Lewis, a University of Minnesota psychology senior, said she was surprised to see the store go and would miss the animals there âÄî three cats, two parrots and one dog.

“I go here a lot and I go to the Book House next door,” Lewis said. “I never go to new bookstores. ItâÄôs too corporate and sterile.”

Lewis also said she prefers to shop in-store as opposed to online because itâÄôs easier to browse through the books.

“ThereâÄôs no humanity in browsing online in books,” Lewis said. “It seems sort of contradictory to the whole idea to me, especially used books.”

Cumming said he agreed, noting that when a bookstore leaves, it can be a tragedy to the community.

“If theyâÄôre looking for a specific book, going online is the way to go,” Cummings said. “But if youâÄôre coming in and youâÄôre just looking for a good book to read, then you browse. ItâÄôs really tough to do that online âĦ

“ItâÄôs kind of like going to a garage sale and looking for a blue pair of shoes, size five. Good luck!” Cummings said. “But if you go to a garage sale and say, âÄòAh, I wonder what IâÄôll find today,âÄô you can be pleasantly surprised.”

The books on the shelves of a used bookstore are a reflection of the communityâÄôs interests, Cummings said. In his bookstore he sees an emphasis on scholarly work âÄî not textbooks but books on topics scholars would read, such as philosophy or high-level math.

The store is also a reflection of CummingsâÄôs own home, he said, with his plants, pictures and pets scattered about the store.

“ItâÄôs not even a home away from home,” Cummings said. “It is a home for me.”

With his Boston Terrier in his lap, Cummings said it is the dogâÄôs work too, as she goes to work every day except Sundays with Cummings.

“[On Sundays] sheâÄôll tap her watch, saying âÄòItâÄôs time to go to work,âÄô ” Cummings said, shaking his head.

“Come Jan. 2, itâÄôs going to be strange. IâÄôm going to be tapping my watch saying, âÄòItâÄôs time to go,âÄô” he added. “But IâÄôll, like I said, be moving on to something else.”