BY SUE WEBBER
A familiar bookstore has come back home again to Main Street in Stillwater.
Loome Theological Booksellers first opened in 1983, changed ownership in 2008 and moved outside the city, but now has returned.
Dr. Thomas M. Loome, a theology professor at the College of St. Catherine, founded Loome Theological Booksellers in 1983, acquiring thousands of books from Catholic institutions that were closing. He also obtained books from a variety of other sources, including libraries, monasteries, convents and seminaries.
He sold the store in 2008, to Christopher Hagen, who in 2012 relocated it to Claret Farm where he and his family lived just southwest of the city.
Now Hagen, 41, his wife Christelle, 44, and their seven children, ages 16 to 7 months, have moved back to Stillwater. Hagen has reopened the bookstore at 229 Main St.
The bookstore’s grand opening on Main Street is set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30.
Hagen’s interest in theological books came naturally. He grew up in a Christian home, first in Nashville and then in Chicago.
“In high school, I was at an age where I was wondering whether all the (religious) stuff I read was true,” he said. “My dad worked for a Christian book publisher, and after I read those books, I was convinced it was all true.”
It was then that theology became his lifelong interest, Hagen said.
He majored in religion at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. Hagen had no definite career goal at the time, though teaching seemed like a likely possibility.
Hagen decided to remain in Minnesota because, he said, “I married a Minnesota girl and decided I liked Minnesota better than Chicago.”
Eventually he and a business partner were drawn to Loome’s bookstore, then located in an old brick church near the Stillwater Library.
Hagen discovered that people who like theological books would come from Iowa, Wisconsin and the Dakotas bearing boxes of books to sell to him. “There aren’t that many specialty stores available,” he said. “People from all over Canada and the U.S. and farther send pictures of books to me by email, and I select the ones I want to buy.”
Several times a year, a large collection becomes available through a library, a seminary, or a professor’s collection, and then Hagen makes a trip to see the collection and choose books for his store. He said he rarely keeps the collections together, but prefers to spread the books throughout the store.
“My mission is to keep books alive,” he said. “I’m not interested in just collecting books. I want to move them off the shelves into the hands of people who will read them.”
He describes the store as one with exposed brick walls, rough wooden floors and burned rafter ceilings. “It feels like a bookstore,” he said. “It’s peaceful here. It will be a theological bookstore forever, for people who are interested in spiritual matters. It’s not a church, but wonderful spiritual conversations happen in this bookstore.”
However, Hagen said he plans to add more theological books that will appeal to people of all religious faiths, not just Catholics.
He also plans to add new and used children’s books, fiction and books on social issues and Minnesota history, as well as works by Stillwater authors.
For now, Hagen is the store’s sole employee, but he plans to hire some help in the future, he said.
His wife has worked in the store occasionally in the past, but now is busy raising the couple’s children, Hagen said. Some of the children are home-schooled; the older ones attend public school.
“We have some very, very generous grandparents who are very much a part of our family’s life,” he said.
Their family intends to preserve some of the elements of Claret Farm, where they had chickens for eggs, goats for milk, an apple orchard and what Hagen calls “various versions of a vegetable garden.”
Prof. Loome, who still lives in Stillwater, is delighted the bookstore has relocated to Main Street, Hagen said.
After moving 15,000 or more books twice in the last five years, Hagen said he wouldn’t look forward to having to do it again. Rather than using professional movers, he said, he relied on one person to oversee the operation and family members and friends to help him move the books each time.
“It was very humbling,” he said.
Loome Theological Booksellers is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The store is closed on Wednesday and Sunday.
Books are also available online at LoomeBooks.com.
Information: LoomeBooks.com or 651-430-1092.