Community spirit; Sweet Reads owner keeps seeing spirit of written word, community at store

Published 5:11 am Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Lisa Deyo is quick to greet customers young and old coming into Sweet Reads.

A few minutes after talking to a couple from out of town visiting the Spam Museum, she greeted a family of regulars stopping by to browse for books.

“The bear really needs a hug; he’s getting lonely,” she told the two children as she pointed to a large stuffed bear near the back of the store.

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Talking to Deyo, a long-time Austin teacher, it’s still easy to see the thrill that comes with owning a bookstore, which she’s long said was a lifelong dream. She even gets a little choked up when talking about her experience connecting with Austin and visitors during the early months at her store.

“I feel like this whole place has just been wrapped in the community’s arms,” she said. “… It’s just been amazing.”

When Deyo looks around her bookstore Sweet Reads, two words come frequently to her mind and her lips: passion and spirit.

Deyo continues to be amazed by the support and connections she’s made owning the downtown bookstore at 407 N. Main St. in Austin, as she praised the community for supporting the store, the local authors it helps promote and the store’s vision.

“People are so passionate in this community and I feel it,” Deyo said. “They bring their passions, they bring their passions for their activities.”

After formally opening June 3, Deyo said business really picked up toward the end of summer with many activities downtown from Hormel Foods 125th anniversary and the Spam Museum’s grand opening to the various events organized through the downtown retailers association.

“I love being part of the downtown, just very supportive,” Deyo said.

In Sweet Reads, Deyo and her husband, John, tried to bring an experience to life. Near the front of the shop, John built a large model train that people can walk through as they browse books, and they can ring a bell to trigger a model train inside. Near the back, there’s a circle of the chairs around a fireplace for people or groups to chat or check out books over coffee — preferably with brew from fellow downtown business the Coffee House on Main, as Deyo notes point to a sign that says the shop’s coffee is welcome.

Then in the back of the store, she offers a large Berenstain Bears exhibit courtesy of former Austin High School band director Bradley Mariska, an avid collector.

An aspect of the store Lisa wants to emphasize are the local and regional items. The store carries books written by Austin authors, as well as books and magazines about Minnesota.

Deyo is thrilled many people have bought books with Austin ties to give to relatives and loved ones.

“These Austin books, people are buying them give to their relatives and different people

Eventually, she plans to carry Austin and Minnesota clothing as well.

The store offers a variety of items and activities for customers and is more than just reading materials. Sweet Reads carries a variety of local candy and products. Dianne Sherman is in charge of candy, which she describes as “vintage and retro.” Curly Girlz Candy in Medford supplies fudge and other treats. There are also handcrafted cards and painted stones made by Susan DeVries. In the future, Lisa plans to bring author visits and book talks to the store. She also hinted at an upcoming exhibit in June which she can “barely contain [her] excitement” about.

She said the spirit of the store has been cultivated by her staff and co-contributors, the community and the atmosphere of the store itself.

But largely, she credits the community.

Deyo said she sees Austin residents as being passionate about their community and wanting a place that is smart and artistic and is a place where people can go stop by a coffee shop and a book store like Sweet Reads.

“It’s passion for people,” she said. “It’s passion for books; the literary world is so amazing. It’s passion for adventure.”

Deyo said she sees Austin residents proud to bring their friends and family back home to show them places like the Spam Museum, Sweet Reads and many other Austin destinations.

“How can you not absorb that passion and make it happen here — and it makes me cry,” Deyo said.