In 1991, college seniors Cinnamon Dokken and Bryan Peterson took a leap of faith and opened A Novel Idea Bookstore with a stock of 2000 books. Shelves were made from scrap lumber. The store was located in an unheated basement in an old warehouse on the edge of downtown Lincoln. It was a long year. In the winter, we wore six layers of clothing. We used our hot pot to make tea for customers, so they’d have something to keep them warm while they shopped. We had old space heaters near the desk. Every now and then the heaters would blow the fuses and we’d all be left in the dark. Customers would use flashlights to browse while we worked to get the lights back on. It was a long year, but the shop paid its bills and we increased the stock to about 20,000 books.
In 1992, we moved to our present location in downtown Lincoln, which had glorious amenities like windows and heating. One of our regular customers found a feral kitten downtown and brought him to us. That little grey tabby inaugurated a tradition of cats in our shop. We have had five over the years. Princes, every one. Each year we publish a Books, Cats, Life is Good calendar that features quotes and photos of our famous felines.
In 1994, Katherine Bergstrom, a book lover since birth, came to work in the shop. Bryan headed to Japan to teach English and to pursue his avocation in Martial Arts. Cinnamon became the sole proprietor and Katherine became the store’s in-shop manager.
We spent the next several years remodeling the store with the help of family and friends. In Cinnamon’s dad’s workshop, we built new shelving featuring inset tiles and relief carving. Also, if you look closely at the bookcases in the literature section, you’ll find the case that fell from the trailer and dragged behind for quite some time before we noticed the sound it made. The bottom corner of that case was rubbed off and is at a slant. However, because the cases were built “hell for stout” as Cinnamon’s dad says, it still does a fine job of holding the books.
In 2006, we opened a satellite shop in the small town of Brownville, Nebraska. Brownville is located right on the Missouri River. With a population of 145, the town had a winery, concert hall, summer stock theater, floating hotel, several museums and four bookstores. A Novel Idea Bookstore: Chapter Two was open Thursdays – Sundays, April – December. We had a small apartment below the bookshop and spent a charmed five years as part of the community. It was a nice bit of extra income and a whole lot of fun.
We continued developing the store, reinvesting as we went, focusing on an improvement project each year. We commissioned an oak counter with lit glass shelving. A local artist painted our staircase to look like old books. We installed two custom-designed stained glass windows. We created another rare book cabinet. The bookstore occupies two floors. Patrons browse a fascinating collection of used, rare and out-of-print books. We offer a wide selection of hardcover and paperback Fiction and Non-Fiction, along with fun sideline items such as Blind Date Books, Postcards & Buttons.
In the past few years, we have expanded our web and social media presence. We now offer a range of Used and Rare Books, as well as Book Bag Care Packages and other Merchandise, through our site. We also offer New Books through our partnership with Bookshop.org which is sort of like the Rebel Alliance to the Empire of Amazon.
We are members of the American Booksellers Association and Midwest Independent Booksellers Association. Community is important to us and we have a longstanding tradition of involvement and investment in education, the arts, social justice and helping to meet people’s basic needs. Throughout the year, we usually host a variety of events.
We care deeply about the safety of our customers and staff. Therefore, during this pandemic, we have new safety routines in place. In order to maintain good social distancing and limit capacity, we keep our door locked. Masks are required. Patrons get their temperatures checked with a point-and-shoot thermometer and are provided a pair of fitted non-latex gloves to wear while browsing our vast collection.
Make a shopping reservation – or just knock on our door – to come in! We’re happy to recommend books to you in person, on the phone or by email. We continue to offer Curbside Pickup, “Book Fairy” Delivery and Shipping via USPS.
We’ve built our business on finding quality books and providing personal customer service. Our staff is knowledgeable, friendly and reads like crazy. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing browse, searching for a particular title or selling a collection, we think you’ll enjoy visiting our store, virtually or physically. Thank you for your support – we greatly appreciate your business!