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Zenith Bookstore coming to West Duluth this summer

Bob Dobrow talks about his plans to open Zenith Bookstore in the former Wild West Liquor building in West Duluth. Plans are to open the store this summer. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com1 / 2
Alan Jensen of Marshall Handyman Services works on the floor tiles near the front door of what will be Zenith Bookstore. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com2 / 2

Mysteries and literature and gardening books galore, all will soon be coming to a West Duluth store.

There may be some poetry, too.

Zenith Bookstore is slated to open this summer on Central Avenue next to Beaner's Central coffee shop, marking the culmination of one man's dream and the continued revival of the city's second-busiest commercial district.

"It will be very much an independent, locally owned bookstore," said owner Bob Dobrow. "We're looking forward to becoming a significant part of the community."

Dobrow, 64, is finishing his last year teaching math at Carleton College and has long planned to move to Duluth with his wife in retirement. But rather than kick back and draw a pension, he expects to be busier than ever drawing readers to his new and used bookstore.

"It will be mostly used books, with (new) bestsellers, local and regional books and more curated indie books," Dobrow said.

Zenith Bookstore will also buy and trade books, and Dobrow is still finalizing the details of that system. He still has to bring up the 15,000 books sitting in storage to fill out the 1,600-square-foot shop, after all. (Though he expects the space can handle up to 25,000 books.)

There are no shelves yet, but the walls had been stripped to exposed brick and the floors to their original hardwood at 318 N. Central Ave. last week as preparations for the store entered their final phase.

Last summer, Dobrow bought the 121-year-old vacant building, long home to a liquor store, after meeting former local bookstore owner Anita Zager at Beaner's one fine day.

"West Duluth jumped out at us as this strong community. We felt a little like it was meant to be," Dobrow said. "There seems to be a lot happening, on this block in particular. I can see it becoming a destination."

Dobrow and his wife, Angel — who wants to start an herbal practice in Duluth — met in New York City and spent many spare hours in bookstores. That's when the romantic notion of one day owning a bookshop was planted in his head; the Boston native will realize that dream when Zenith Bookstore's doors open July 1 or thereabouts.

The business they imagine won't be the books-to-the-ceiling, dusty image many may harbor — Dobrow is looking for clean, tidy and organized.

"The used-book industry is not what it was even 10 years ago," Dobrow said. "Technology plays a big role."

He expects the store to take advantage of that technology for its point-of-sale system and inventory to easily answer the calls and customer queries every used book shop has fielded: "Do you have...?"

Technology had long been the bane of small booksellers, however, as Amazon.com increasingly ate away at sales, but Dobrow said that trend is reversing as ebooks plateau and bookstores mount a "renaissance" of sorts.

"There's a hunger for the physical object and having a local store," he said.

Brooks Johnson

Brooks is an investigative/enterprise reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.

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