Tammie Jo Olson and her father, Don Olson
• Describe your business?
We are a used bookstore that offers store credit to those wishing to trade in their old books.
Don: I guess you might call me a book store financier.
• What drove you to launch your own business?
Don: I was walking past the store and happened to see a “For Sale” sign in the window. I knew that my son had a passion for books so I relayed the information to him. That’s where it all started.
Tammie: My brother, Erik, purchased the bookstore from the original owner, Karen Meyers. Erik was an avid reader and wanted to be a librarian when he was younger. Owning his own bookstore was a dream come true. Unfortunately, Erik passed away unexpectedly 15 months after he bought the store.
• How many hours do you typically work in a week?
Tammie: I’m usually in the store 30-plus hours. But the behind the scenes work that I do at home seems never ending.
Two employees and one volunteer
• When did you start your business?
The store was opened in 1980. Erik purchased the store in January 2015
• If you left another job to start this business, what was it?
Tammie: It’s complicated.
• What sacrifices did you make to launch this business and to keep it running?
Tammie: My dad, Don, gave Erik a personal loan to buy the store. My dad is 77 and happily retired with no interest of running the store on a daily basis. So after living in New York for 27 years, I moved home to run the store for my dad.
Don: It took lots of money and lots of learning.
• What is the best thing about owning a business?
Tammie: The people I am surrounded with: We are very grateful that Joan continued working with us as she has been with the store for almost 20 years. She is a plethora of information. Amy was a librarian with a vast knowledge of authors, books, series etc. Karen is our local “angel” volunteer. She has been instrumental in helping us organize the store and back room. And of course, our customers. I’ve met and gotten to know some really nice and interesting people. I’m very touched by many of our repeat and new customers who have rallied around us and been very supportive and understanding with our situation.
Don: A feeling of satisfaction.
• What is the hardest thing about owning a business?
Tammie: Being the last to get paid if at all and a full day off is hard to come by.
Don: The bookwork, government papers and filings.
• What’s your hope for your business in the next year?
Tammie: Erik had a lot of ideas and plans for improving the store. I found the notes he took that I’ve been able to reference. Before we take the time and energy to make changes, I really need to get to know our clientele better so we can continue to improve the store based on their wants.
• What inspires you to keep doing it?
Tammie: My dad, our employees/customers and keeping my brother’s dream going. Erik was one to read about adventures, I was one to have adventures. He would always tease me, “You go ahead and sail to Africa. I can go anywhere in the world with a book.” Well, thanks to my brother, I now have a store full of adventures ready for the taking.
Don: Again, a feeling of satisfaction.
• Knowing what you know now, would you still take on your business?
Tammie: Yes. I have never seen my brother so happy, excited and proud as he was when he bought the store. So, although it’s been one of the most stressful experiences of my life (losing my brother and having a crash course in how to run a business I had no experience with), I’m glad Erik had those 15 months of happiness. Although we have had a heart-breaking year, we have also been blessed in many unexpected ways … to which we say “thanks” to all those involved.
Don: Only if I was 30 years younger!!
Entrepreneur spotlights the brave souls who own and run micro-businesses in the Rochester area. A total of 70,075 Minnesota firms had four or fewer employees in 2015. That’s about 60 percent out of the state’s total 117,124 businesses. Please pass on suggestions for Entrepreneur to Jeff Kiger at 285-7798 or [email protected].