A Pilgrimmage to DreamHaven Books
Greg Ketter in front of DreamHaven Books and Comics in
downtown Minneapolis. Photo taken Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Science fiction collector Denny Lien died in Minneapolis a few weeks ago, and word started going out that the folks handling his estate were looking for help. Rich Horton let me know that they were searching for a home for his legendary collection of vintage science fiction magazines. I didn’t need to be told twice, and on Wednesday I rented a minivan, folded down the back seats, and drove 379 miles from Chicago to Minneapolis.
Greg Ketter had the key to Denny’s place so I swung by Greg’s store, DreamHaven Books and Comics, just a few blocks from George Floyd Square. Greg is a friend of mine, and I’ve known him since I started buying books from the DreamHaven booth at conventions in the mid-90s. But I’d never made the trip to DreamHaven Books before… and I wasn’t prepared for the wonders that awaited inside.
DreamHaven is the most glorious and well-stocked specialty bookstore I’ve ever seen, and if you’re a science fiction collector (or even a casual fan), it is a place you absolutely must visit at least once in your life. I don’t know why I never did it sooner, but it’s clear to me now that I’ve lived a lot of wasted years.
[Click the images for dreamy versions.]
Owners Greg Ketter and Lisa Freitag
I’ve known about DreamHaven for decades, of course. And because I always drop by their booth at Windycon, World Fantasy, and the Windy City Pulp and Paper show, I somehow got the impression that, over the years, I’ve seen most of their stock.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The first thing you notice when you step inside DreamHaven is that it’s HUGE. It occupies an entire city block, and every inch of the store is crammed with shelves overflowing with books, comics, and treasures.
Behold the majesty of DreamHaven Books and Comics
Now, I’ve visited a lot of legendary bookstores in my day, in many different countries. But I have never seen anything that matches DreamHaven.
For as long as I’ve know Greg, he’s been acquiring collections. Every year I hear about Greg’s tireless efforts, driving around the country to bring yet another legendary collection of books back to the store. I’ve see some of the incredible results at his well-stocked booth at Windy City Pulp & Paper every year: rare paperbacks, British books and imports, vintage magazines, pulps, autographed editions, small press volumes, specialty press, graphic novels, discount hardcovers, comics, and so much more.
The booth, I now understand, contains only a small sample of the tens of thousands of items Greg has collected over the decades. The store is the ultimate repository, and the moment you step inside you’re presented with a dizzying array of tight corridors leading off in all directions. Every corner — and as far as I could figure out, the building had about two dozen corners — is densely packed with shelves, book, and magazine displays.
Your eyes don’t deceive you — DreamHaven takes up the entire block
DreamHaven is the place to find that fantasy paperback you had to return to the library in 1978, and that comic book you lost when you were nine. I guarantee, it’s in the store. I don’t guarantee you’ll find it, mind you, but I have faith it’s there somewhere.
Up at the front of the store is the valuable stuff — the really rare paperbacks, first editions, autographed copies, and one-of-a-kind items. I snapped a couple photos of the displays for you to gawk at. Check them out below.
Some of the priceless treasures collected by Greg and his team of literary adventurers
I’m sorry to say that I didn’t have nearly enough time to wander the store. I had only a scant few hours to pack hundreds of magazines at Denny’s house before I had to return the key (and the incredible finds I made there deserve their own article — I’ll say a few words about that in a few days), and then turn around for the six-hour return drive to Chicago.
As it was, I didn’t get back to the store until well after it had closed. Greg and Lisa were extraordinarily patient with me — and Lisa even gave me a quick tour.
On top of the amazing items they had for sale, she also gave me a glimpse of the sprawling basement, filled to the brim with boxes waiting to be cataloged, estate sale finds, overstock and much more. Lords know what priceless treasures hide down there in the shadows.
One corner of the sprawling book metropolis that is DreamHaven (left), and
Lisa gives us a glimpse at the Cave of Wonders in the basement (right)
DreamHaven Books is located at 2301 E 38th St in Minneapolis, MN 55406. Their phone number is (612) 823-6161, and their website is here. The next time you’re within two hundred miles of downtown Minneapolis, do yourself a favor and make a detour. You can thank me later.
And if you happen to be at any of the major conventions DreamHaven deals at, including Windycon, Capricon, Windy City Pulp and Paper, and even the World Fantasy Convention, drop by their booth to meet Greg and Lisa.
You’ll be glad you did.
“I don’t know why I never did it sooner, but it’s clear to me now that I’ve lived a lot of wasted years.” i LOVE this line, i understand it all to well, hahaha.
what a great store, makes me jealous and wish for something similar in my area for sure. there was a great used book store when i first moved that closed soon after, and now all i have are half priced book stores. someday i want to make a pilgrimage around te country to stores like this one just to check them out.
A book store tour of America sounds like a stompin’ idea. We’d have to start with a map of the best stores left.
When I moved to St. Charles in the late 90s, there were five fine used book stores. After Borders and Barnes & Noble opened up, they all went out of business. When Borders folded 15 years later, it left the area with one book store… much poorer than when I got here.
I know you didn’t have time to fit them into your schedule, John, but I’d be remiss in not pointing out that Minneapolis houses TWO amazing SFF bookstores, the other being Uncle Hugo’s, who reopened in their new space (at 2716 E. 31st St, so actually pretty close to Dreamhaven) last fall. Also definitely worth a visit.
I did regret not getting to see Uncle Hugo’s. I didn’t even get the chance to drive past it. I suppose this makes it all the more urgent that I make a return trip!
Is there any more wonderful place in the world ( for people like us, anyway) than a truly great bookstore, especially of the Dreamhaven kind? I’ve known two here in California, both now sadly gone – A Change of Hobbit in Los Angeles and Mystery and Imagination in Glendale. Both were priceless places; the owner of Hobbit, Sherry Gottlieb (I still have an old bookmark that lists her as the “Hobbitch”) knew literally everyone, and the store had a constant stream of science fiction and fantasy writers coming through for signings, special events, or just to rub elbows with readers. In the same room you could dodge obscenities from Harlan Ellison and enjoy the old-world courtesy of Fritz Leiber. Mystery and Imagination was much the same – the wall by the staircase leading to the second floor had been signed by all the luminaries who had ever visited – Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen were right next to each other, just as it should be.
Places like that are little bits of heaven on earth – treasure them while you can!
It’s fascinating how the reputation of a really good bookstore can spread far and wide. I first heard about A CHANGE OF HOBBIT when I lived in Canada in the 80s. I routinely heard stories about events there after I moved to Illinois in 1987. The store closed in 1991 before I ever had the chance to see it in person.
The only bookstores I know that had close to the same reputation were FORBIDDEN PLANET in New York (still open), and Alice Bentley’s THE STARS OUR DESTINATION here in Chicago (which closed in 2003).
The Other Change of Hobbit bookstore, originally in Berkeley, California and now in El Cerrito, is still around… do you know if the two stores were connected?
If I remember rightly, the connection was tenuous – I think Sherry knew the folks involved and just gave them permission to use the name.
The Other Change of Hobbit hasn’t had a physical location in quite a while. There was a time when they were located in Berkeley that I would drop in monthly to pick up a copy of Locus and browse their stock, but that was many years ago. According to the internet the founders of TOCH were friendly with Sherry Gottlieb, the founder of A Change of Hobbit. Gottlieb was the one who suggested they open their own bookstore, and offered up the idea of them going with a variation of her own store’s name.
We do still have one genre bookstore still around in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dark Carnival in Berkeley is still fighting the good fight. https://www.yelp.com/biz/dark-carnival-berkeley
I wish there were more stores like this. The feeling of nostalgia I get looking through old magazines and perusing games and paraphernalia can be overwhelming. They always inspire and remind me of simpler days when technology was so far behind our imagination.
Well said. It’s not just that these stores help us locate hard-to-find books and treasures of all kinds. Just browsing through them can be a magical experience. They are a destination in themselves.
Wished I had known you were in my hometown! I live about a mile from Dreamhaven. I go there about once every other month–mainly because I can’t afford going more often! It’s a great store and they are incredibly helpful in tracking down things.
I forgot you are a Minneapolis local! It was a rescue mission on a very tight timetable, but if I’d remembered, I would have at least swung by to say hello.
Did you get to Howard Days this year?
I did not. Moving it to April messed up my schedule! And, as you know, I couldn’t make Windy City because of a work commitment. 2023 looks to be con-less. 😞
The last time I was in Minneapolis was back in 2006 or so, when my daughter started looking at colleges and decided to visit the University of Minnesota. (She liked the University well enough but was seriously spooked when they told her proudly about the hamster tunnels connecting all the buildings on campus, so that students could get to class in the winter. When we got home, she drew a line horizontally across the map at St. Louis — more or less the 38th parallel, just like the DMZ between North and South Korea — and declared she would only go to college south of that line — and indeed she ended up at Clemson.)
There was limited free time for me to indulge in my priorities whenever I visit somewhere new, so we only made it to Uncle Hugos. I really need to get back to Minneapolis and visit Dreamhaven!
DreamHaven is at least twice as far for you as it is for me…. but it’s still worth the trip. 🙂
I was enormously relieved to hear that Uncle Hugo’s re-opened after the store burned down in the George Floyd riots. I will walk through its doors some day.
Finally recently got to the new Hugo’s. It pales in comparison to the old one, but it’s a hopeful work in progress. I foresee it growing and getting better and better.
Used to live in the Twin Cities and visited Uncle Hugos and Dreamhaven regularly. It was so nice being lucky enough to have those two stores nearby.
Alas, after the riots, leaving seemed the prudent policy. Haven’t been to Dreamhaven in years though I’ve ordered from them.
I have visited the new Uncle Hugos. Yes,, it’s a shadow of its former self, but I think it will improve as long as the owner wants to stick with it.