MOORHEAD – What started as a childhood dream has now become a reality for Concordia grad Sydni Kreps, who recently opened Moorhead’s first independent bookstore. In addition to being a childhood dream of hers, the store, which opened in early July, acts as a tribute to Kreps’ late father
Kreps graduated from Concordia College in 2017, where she studied multimedia journalism and communications. She worked as a communication coordinator for a brief period after college.
Afterwards, Kreps went to graduate school to become an English teacher and eventually landed a job teaching in West Fargo.
The week before Kreps was scheduled to begin teaching, her father, Mark, died in a car accident.
Despite the huge and unexpected loss, Kreps continued her plan of teaching.
“I did teach for a year and a half and then I ended up taking a leave because the grief caught up with me in a big way,” Kreps said.
During her leave, Kreps took time to reflect and contemplate.
“After losing a parent early on, you know, you kind of realize how short and precious life is. So I was kind of needing to find some joy in my life. And I kept going back to this idea that I’ve always had of opening a bookstore,” Kreps said.
For Kreps, this revelation was in part sparked by her father, specifically in the form of a phrase he would often say, “More than words.”
She had this phrase tattooed on her arm after his death, in his handwriting.
“After my dad died, I knew right away that I wanted to get a tattoo in his handwriting,” Kreps said.
The signifigance of the sentence is detailed on the “More Than Words” website,“The name More Than Words comes from a phrase that our founder Sydni’s dad, Mark, often used when he was experiencing moments so profound that he was at a loss for words.” according to their website.
“I just kind of had this epiphany moment of like, this is the name of the bookstore, I’d always dreamed of,” Kreps said.
In the very early stages of planning, she turned to memoirs of booksellers and bookstore owners to help guide her on this undertaking, Kreps said.
“That was kind of the first thing I turned to and that is a tip I give to anybody now who’s thinking of starting something is to go more for more of the memoir approach than like an instructional guide. I just felt like I got a much better sense of what I was getting myself into, big picture wise.” Kreps said.
Kreps also began her planning with the help of The Bookstore Training Group, an aptly-named organization that offers training and resources to new bookstore owners. Kreps utilized their textbook entitled Owning a Bookstore, The Essential Planning Guide, as well as online seminars.
Additionally, Kreps attended the Midwest Independent Booksellers Conference.
“There were a bunch of different booksellers all across the Midwest who came and there were informational workshops and a chance to meet authors and to connect with other owners and that was a great experience to have before actually opening the store,” Kreps said.
In the midst of this planning, Kreps began looking for open buildings in Moorhead.
“I knew right away that I wanted to open the shop in Moorhead. You know, Fargo’s got Zandbroz and Ferguson and all of that, and I thought it was kind of odd that despite Moorhead having these two college campuses that we didn’t have a bookstore over here,” Kreps said.
The building she found first immediately called out to her.
“Oddly enough, I found out that my dad’s grandpa built this building, which felt very serendipitous and was kind of one of those signs that I mentioned that I felt like I was on the right track,” Kreps said.
The building was a chiropractic clinic and included many walls that needed to be knocked down. Luckily, the renovation was handled by a cousin of Kreps, who took on the project of clearing space for the bookstore.
“I was really lucky to have a cousin who is very handy and kind of took on that task outside of his day job,” Kreps said.
Throughout the process of setting up and opening, Kreps was helped by many of her family members and friends, who came together to support her in her goal of opening the bookstore.
“A lot of friends and family put in volunteer hours to help me make that happen. A lot of late nights and ultimately it came down to okay, we just need to set a date so that we can just make this happen because it could have dragged on forever.” Kreps said.
One person who lent a hand was Greta Oanes, longtime friend of Kreps and fellow Concordia graduate. Oanes and Kreps met in high school and were friends throughout college.
“As soon as she said she was opening the bookstore I told her I would like to work for her,” Oanes said.
Oanes helped in the initial process of getting the bookstore and she now works part time in the bookstore.
“There were some late nights, you know, me and my immediate family came and helped put the shelves on bookcases and put all the books out on the shelves and put the inventory out and helped with labeling and some of the initial inventory and I kind of spent as much time as I could here, helping get ready,” Oanes said.
Kreps says she has been very lucky to have the support she received in starting the bookstore.
“I’ve just been really lucky to have such supportive friends and family and given my past experience as an English teacher and all of that I’m lucky enough to be friends with a lot of librarians and English teachers and bookish people,” Kreps said.
Moving forward, Kreps is looking to host a variety of events both in and outside the store.
“Hosting workshops, starting some programming for younger readers, children, launching our own more than words book club is high on the list. So just kind of really leaning into becoming more of that community space that I’ve envisioned,” Kreps said.