A new, locally owned bookstore in downtown Anoka invites the community to dive into good books and good company.
Open since late September 2019, Otter Lane Book Shop at 208 E. Main St. is a dream come true for owner Niecy Olson, of Spring Lake Park.
“I’ve always been passionate about books, especially children’s books,” the Fridley High School graduate said.
The shop has a cozy atmosphere featuring up-north-themed decor created by Olson’s husband, Bill, including two bookshelves made from a canoe cut in half.
Olson’s son designed and purchased the store’s sign, which features an otter in eyeglasses reading a book. Otters are the favorite animal of her youngest daughter, and otters would play on the dock at the lake home the family once owned in Alexandria.
The store’s mascot, a stuffed otter, hides in different places day to day.
The shop aims to cater to families in the community, stocking books for all ages, but with a focus on children. More than half the store is dedicated to kids books, from board books for the very young to picture books to more advanced stories for older children. Related toys and games are for sale as well.
A shelf of “grown-up” books and a handful of romance novels and travel books are also available, along with used books donated by customers and sold at bargain prices.
Olson carefully curates the selection at Otter Lane and includes authors from Minnesota and Anoka County.
“It’s kind of a combination of what I like, what’s recommended and, of course, the customer is the main focus and what they like,” she said. “I love suggestions.”
Olson knows she can’t compete with the selection or price of online giants like Amazon, but she tries to offer a personal experience and a place for the community to gather.
“People love to come in and actually grab the book and hold the book and look at the book,” she said. “You can’t do that on Amazon.”
Recently a mother and three daughters came into the shop to browse.
“Each daughter had picked a chair and their favorite books,” Olson said. “And they sat with a little pile of books, and they went through the books, and they each chose their favorite.”
Those are the types of scenes that bring Olson joy.
Otter Lane also offers opportunities to create memories with children through weekly story times, currently scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays. Olson plans to increase the number of story times and, starting in February, she hopes to add “dance and read” classes for kids, taught by one of her daughters.
Because Olson wants to support education, teachers get a discount on books when they bring in their teacher badge. Once the store’s website is up and running, teachers will be able to create a public wish list for their classroom, and anyone will be able to look up the teacher’s list and buy a book for the classroom.
Book clubs for adults are also in the works.
“It’s a place for people to come and share their love of books and converse and read,” Olson said of the store.
Otter Lane Book Shop is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
For more information or to watch for clubs and activities at the shop, search for Otter Lane Book Shop on Facebook or visit tinyurl.com/OtterLane.