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Fox Den Used Books carves out niche in River Falls

‘The walls here are magical and we’ve created an amazing place’

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January 22, 2024

RIVER FALLS – The owners of Fox Den Used Books – James and Heather Williams – said they have long believed in the continued survival of the general stock bookstore.

Offering gifts, games, toys and books for people of all ages, Heather Williams said Fox Den – located at 117 S. Main St. in downtown River Falls – is likely to have something for everyone. 

“We listen to what our customers want when choosing our selection,” she said. “We also think about what’s available and want to bring in something new.” 

When it comes to selecting puzzles, games, science kits, art kits, toys and gifts, Heather said she is careful not to carry any lines other local businesses have.

As for choosing books, James said he focuses on buying used books, while Heather focuses on buying new books.

“With new books, I try to listen to what’s going on in the industry,” she said. “We can’t carry every new book published, but (we) try to have what people are looking for.”

If a customer is looking for a certain book or item the store does not normally carry, Heather said they place a special order for it, “and let them know once it’s in.”

When choosing children’s books, Heather said she aims to carry books that have at least some educational spin.

“My mom was a teacher, and I spent a lot of time in her classroom, and I hear her voice in my head when choosing books – ‘is there anything educational to it?’” she said. “But, there’s still room for the whimsy.”

 A love of books

The Williams opened their first bookstore – Sixth Chamber, which focused on buying and selling used books – on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1995. 

The couple opened a second store – Fox Den – in 2012.

James said it was his idea to open a second store, this time on Main Street in River Falls, which is where they live.

At that time, there were multiple empty storefronts, and Heather said she wasn’t sure if it would work.

“We went forward and found the perfect space (at 120 S. Main St.) and hoped we could be part of a Main Street revival,” she said. “The community embraced us, and now there are several businesses that opened about that same time and are still around. Main Street is now busier.”

In the meantime, Heather said the owner of the building that Sixth Chamber was located in in the Twin Cities was selling, which would force them to find a new location.

However, instead, the Williams decided to close the St. Paul shop and focus solely on the River Falls location.

“In River Falls, we’ve been able to get to know our customers – I am grateful every day for the people I have met through this space,” Heather said. “The walls here are magical, and we’ve created an amazing place.”

Contemplating what to do next, Heather said a “sign” – quite literally in the form of a for sale sign – caught their attention across the street.

“As we were looking out the door, we saw across the street someone come out and put up a for sale on this building,” she said. “We were calling the number as the sign was going up. We are happy here. We have more space and were able to add more offerings, including a space where adults could sit and read in front of the fireplace.”

Fox Den opened in its new location (117 S. Main St.) in early 2022.

Local focus

When selecting books, Heather said she likes to incorporate as many local authors as she can. By including writers, such as Dan Woll, the author of “North of Highway 8,” and “Death on Cache Lake,” there’s an opportunity for book signings and other special events.

“Our book club recently celebrated its fifth anniversary,” she said. “When we started, I didn’t know the other people, but now I am happy to call them my friends. We’ve found family.” 

The store, Heather said, has multiple book clubs and regular events, including an evening family story time and craft session and Stitch and Sip, where guests can bring their favorite tea mug and talk while working on their current embroidery, hand sewing or other stitching projects.

Running a successful small business, Heather said, also requires an amazing staff – something Williams said Fox Den most definitely has. 

“Our staff is phenomenal,” she said. “They are creative, beautiful people who provide our customers with great service. We are so blessed.”

The store has also received community recognition.

The River Falls Area Chamber of Commerce named Fox Den as its Small Business of the Year for 2022.

Fox Den was recognized with the honor during an awards ceremony at the beginning of last year.

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

To learn more, check out Fox Den’s Facebook page.

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