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NPR Arts & Life

The Final Chapter Of A Tale Of Books, Love And Mystery In Minneapolis

Gary Shulze, 66, and Pat Frovarp, 75, sit in Once Upon A Crime, the Minneapolis bookstore they ran for 14 years. On when they first met: "Well, Gary was pretty doggone cute," says Frovarp. "There's no doubt about it."
Gary Shulze, 66, and Pat Frovarp, 75, sit in Once Upon A Crime, the Minneapolis bookstore they ran for 14 years. On when they first met: "Well, Gary was pretty doggone cute," says Frovarp. "There's no doubt about it."

It was a love of mystery novels that brought Gary Shulze and Pat Frovarp together — a love of God Is a Bullet by Boston Teran, to be specific.

"I was looking at books," Frovarp, who is 75, tells NPR's Ari Shapiro. "Gary and I had seen each other. We didn't know one another. And he walked over to me in this particular bookstore and handed me a book by Teran and said, 'You've gotta read this book, it's really good.'"

That bookstore wouldn't be the last in their lives: For 14 years, the two have run Once Upon A Crime, a beloved basement store in Minneapolis that caters to mystery lovers.

Not only did Frovarp work there before they bought it, the couple were married there in 2007 — on the fifth anniversary of the purchase.

Only about seven people were there, Frovarp recalls.

"We had (author) Gregg Hurwitz coming in from Los Angeles at 7 o'clock that night. So we got married late afternoon, we closed the store at 5:30, that wonderful chaplain from the hospital came and married us, and a few friends were there, and that was that for that," she says. "And we stopped at a Wendy's for our wedding dinner afterwards and went home and crashed. It was wonderful."

Now, though, they're retiring — Shulze is 66 — and their store is changing hands.

The bookstore business is a tough one, and Frovarp credits Once Upon A Crime's emphasis on customer service and efforts like tracking down elusive titles with its success.

"I had an instance this morning where a guy I've never seen before came in for a couple of books that I ordered from a dealer friend," says Frovarp. "And he said, 'Boy, this place is great, I will be back.' And generally, they come back because we do treat our customers well."

Frovarp says the new owners — Dennis Abraham, wife Meg Kelly-Abraham and daughter Devin — "want to keep running the store just like us — except they're gonna have a big presence online, which is something we've never done because we're a couple of Luddites."

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