National recognition puts Sweet Reads on list as best local Minnesota bookstore

In the almost three years since Sweet Reads opened in downtown Austin, Lisa Deyo has been able to experience what she considers to be “a dream come true” of running her own bookstore.

However, the owner of the popular local business never imagined having her shop be named on “The Ultimate List of Local Bookstores: 51 Must-See Bookstores Across the U.S.” by BookBub.

“Here’s the thing, I have no idea how,” Deyo said of the recognition. “I have no idea how I got number one in Minnesota with bookstores in the cities or in Duluth? It’s wild, and it’s just very flattering. I wish I knew what was going on.”

Not only was Deyo’s bookstore recognized by BookBub, but the website Off the Shelf also recognized Sweet Reads as one of its top small local bookstores. It’s an honor that Deyo adamantly said was a “team effort,” referencing her volunteers who help operate the shop while Deyo teaches at Southgate Elementary School during the school year.

“A huge thank you goes to my four people and my family for putting up with me,” Deyo laughed. “I’m only here two hours a day (during the school year). For nine months, there are four other people who are the reason we’re getting all these accolades. It’s the absolute truth.”

A sweet journey

Sweet Reads is approaching its three-year anniversary in June. Known to Austin residents as the “sweetest little bookstore” in southeast Minnesota, the business has grown “fast and furious,” according to Deyo. Whether customers come for the selection of local authors to sampling sweet — or weird — treats behind the candy counter, there is something for everyone at Sweet Reads.

“I feel strongly supported by our community,” she said of Sweet Reads success. “We’re privileged that we’ve got friends of the book store. Every town goes through ebbs and flows, and that’s a fact of life. I got in on the wave. With the Spam Museum, nature center and rec center, everything is taking off. I love my new neighbors downtown, and we’re riding the wave. It’s so amazing to be in on that. There’s excitement over new ideas and plans.”

The bookstore has grown within the last three years alongside Austin’s growth. Deyo enthusiastically attributed the success of Sweet Reads to the growth of the city. She also proudly supports authors from Minnesota by carrying their works in-shop and invites artists to share their work.

However, another point of pride for Deyo was the support for young writers in the Austin Public Schools District that she firmly believes contributes to Sweet Reads success and fosters a love for reading and writing at an early age. One such example would be Haylie “Stormy” Meyers, an IJ Holton Intermediate School sixth grade student, who recently published her first book “Lucas’ War.” She will be speaking at Sweet Reads at 1 p.m. this Saturday.

“Wow, Austin is fortunate,” Deyo said. “We have writers and readers. We have such good educators in this community and parents who support their children. Reading makes a stronger community, and to have a community that supports our writers and readers is very impressive.”

While winning awards and being recognized isn’t the main priority or point that Sweet Reads is trying to make, Deyo appreciates that there are still people who continue to support a local bookstore.

“To have people choose us over a bigger name store or online retailer is amazing,” she said. “We appreciate the recognition, and thank you to everyone for choosing us as their spot for books.”

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