Plot twist: CatTale’s bookstore gains new owner
Theresa Woodward to begin new chapter and southern sister store
Editor's note: After this story was published and as happens in business contracts, the Dispatch learned the sale of the bookstore, as profiled in this story, fell through.
BRAINERD — Theresa Woodward is looking at putting this enduring winter behind her — but that also means leaving the store that has been her labor of love for years.
Woodward, who was born in Breezy Point and lives in Brainerd, has been the force behind CatTale's Books and Gifts for about seven years, and is active in the community with the downtown businesses and the city's planning commission. But winters have become increasingly hard for Woodward. She said the move has a lot to do with her fibromyalgia and arthritis and trying to alleviate those symptoms without relying on medications that haven’t worked. She also was concerned about her young daughter having the same type of autoimmune symptoms and negative reaction to the cold weather.
So Woodward said they put her Brainerd home on the market and are selling the downtown Brainerd business and moving to St. Genevieve, Missouri. Woodward has been looking for a warmer climate for several years and found a former brewery in the Missouri city that has living space and the business in the same building. She plans to open a CatTale’s bookstore there, a sort of sister store to the one in Brainerd.
“And Annie Woog will be taking this one and helping Brainerd find their books,” Woodward said.
CatTale’s is an expansive and cozy bookstore with large windows looking out on Laurel Street. Inside, the business is full of used and new books, puzzles, gifts designed for children and all ages, jewelry, cards, clothing, and grab bag surprises of book genres or the wrapped and thus anonymous “bad movie nights,” among other offerings.
In November of 2016, Woodward’s husband Randy learned longtime owner and novelist Wendy Rosnau was selling the downtown Brainerd business. He set up an appointment for his wife to see the store that afternoon. Walking into the store, she knew it was the right fit. She worked to create a welcoming atmosphere and spent hours cleaning used books. A mother of five, Woodward’s youngest daughter, Phoebe, was 2 when they took the store over. Phoebe says she is now 8 going on 9, and soon with a birthday in May. Woodward said Phoebe has grown up at the store in the intervening years and contributes ghost cats to the annual Halloween displays.
Woodward was a customer at CatTale’s for years before becoming its owner. She worked with Rosnau for three months in the transition and made the store her own, expanding it into the former bike shop next door in 2018 creating a lighter, airy and roomier version. Woodward researched markets, kept up on industry trends and learned she could keep up with big box stores in the area, and hopefully compete with Amazon for customers by being able to order books and placing small orders for new books.
During the pandemic, she delivered books to porches and made exchanges in grocery store parking lots to get books she knew her longtime customers particularly needed as they may have felt more cutoff from the world than ever before.
As the new owner, Woog is also a longtime customer of CatTale’s who grew up in the lakes area. Woog is from Crosslake, went to school in Pequot Lakes and on to Bemidji State College. She formerly had the Sweet Life bakery in Pequot Lakes for a bit. Woog said too many hours went into the bakery when she had trouble finding help.
Now, with her children grown, Woog said it is time to do something for herself.
“And this is it,” she said of the store. “I’ve been coming in here so long that when Theresa took it over seven years ago, I wanted it.”
As a single mom with three kids, Woog said it wasn’t an option then.
“But boy, this store has been a love of mine,” Woog said. “And so it's just coming to fruition and we've been friends — and it’s just, it couldn't be more perfect. Stars are in alignment.”
Woog said as a longtime customer, when Woodward first bought the bookstore she worried it would change.
“She just made it better,” Woog said, adding she plans to keep the store just as it is and add her own artistic vision.
For Woodward, part of the challenge of leaving something she put so much time into was finding the right person to take it over and continue.
“It's a little heartbreaking to leave everything that we've been working for,” Woodward said. “But at the same time, I'm limited on how much I can put into it, too. And it limits not only the business woman that I can be and the community member that I can be, but my health is limiting the parent that I can be, too.”
So for the sake of being a better mom and grandma, Woodward said she was going to take care of herself and do what she needs to in order to provide for everyone and stay healthy.
Woog was looking for a shop to open and ended up talking with Woodward about it several times. Woog wanted to be in the downtown area when Woodward said why not do her shop in CatTale’s. For both women, everything came together quickly.
“Once we figured it out then everything was like rapid fire,” Woog said.
“It was the right time, absolutely.” Woodward said.
Woodward said it was not unlike the process when she took over the store from Rosnau as one serendipitous moment happened after the next leading to her purchase of the store.
The change, they said, is exciting and will happen in May.
Woodward said the window displays will no doubt get an upgrade from Woog, a painter and art major. They’ll keep the Halloween book giveaway and candy buy back after the holiday. The two women plan to support each other with the sister stores. Woog said she will be learning a lot and working with Woodward to make sure everyone gets their special orders.
“And I’m not going to change a thing, not messing with perfection,” Woog said. “I do a lot of art, but I’ll just add that in. I’m not changing anything so everyone can rest assured that it will be the same beloved bookstore that it’s always been.”
Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.