Woman with a passion for reading opens used bookstore in Albert Lea

Published 9:56 am Thursday, May 11, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Ever since Alyssa Dale was a child, she has always loved to read.

And it has always been a dream for her to open her own used bookstore.

So when she and her husband, Dillon, got settled after college and were at a place where it could be possible, he encouraged her to go after that dream.

Email newsletter signup

On the weekends, thanks to Dillon’s job as a Realtor, they began looking at properties for sale in the region.

“We wanted to find the perfect property, in the perfect location and the perfect city,” she said.

They started looking in June and closed on the property at 705 Marshall St. in Albert Lea in December, working in the months since to turn the main level into what is now known as AJ’s Book Hideaway.

The bookstore, named after the initials of her first name and her daughter Jacelyn’s first name, opened on Saturday to the community.

“This is kind of exactly what I dreamed of,” she said of the location. “It’s right on the lake, so if you’re walking you can pop into the bookstore, you can grab a coffee, a nutrition drink. It’s a location that’s visible to people.”

The Dales and their two daughters and dog moved to Albert Lea from Blooming Prairie about a month ago.

The bookstore features different genres of books for adults, young adults and children.

The front room is a space for young adult and adult books, as well as some items for sale from other artisan vendors in the area. The middle room features children’s books and a play area, and the back room features more books and a place where people can gather and read for a while if they choose. The store also has free WiFi available.

“It’s really just about gathering, collaborating — it’s about bringing books to people,” she said.

If people have books they would like to get rid of, they can bring them into the store for credit towards other books or for her to purchase, depending on the demand for the titles.

“This is definitely a passion project,” Dale said. “It’s not about anything else other than bringing books to people in the community and being a resource.”

She credited the Albert Lea Public Library and the Fountain Lake Bookstore for also being great resources for people with books in the community and said she hopes to complement their services.

Prices at the store vary. On Wednesday, she offered half off of softcovers and 75% off of hardcover books. She even plans to include some pay-as-you-can days.

The grand opening for the store was Saturday, which she described as a success with snacks, visits from family and friends, giveaways and customers buying books.

She is partnering with a handful of other artisan vendors in the community, including The Candle Beesness, J&A Products, Creations by Catryna, Nine Pink Roses Design and Grey+Clay for things such as jewelry, candles, tumblers, bookmarks and other items.

She is also planning an 11 a.m. storytime on Saturdays.

Her hours the rest of this week were 10:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. She is still trying to feel out the needs in the community for hours, and said the times will likely change.

Aside from the bookstore, Dale works part time as the marketing specialist at First United Methodist Church in Austin. She said she and her husband eventually plan to renovate the upper floor of the building to offer some apartments.

For more information, people can reach out to the company on Facebook, by phone at 507-475-9066 or by email at ajsbookhideaway@gmail.com.