Some thoughts about the Globe News transition

Photo from Globe News Facebook page

When I moved to Duluth in 2005, I didn’t visit Superior until I’d lived here for a few weeks. My then-wife lived in Madison and I drove there every other weekend to see her; on the weekends I remained in Duluth, I was a workaholic, trying hard to clear my calendar so I could travel the 5.5 hours each way to visit her.

It was a few weekends in when I finally had “enough time” to cross the bridge. I was so excited to see Globe News.

Photo from Globe News Facebook page

It looked a little worn out, from the outside. The signage had all the right words, but in faded lettering. In my hometown of Milwaukee, the best shops were the ones in buildings owned by the shopkeepers, that were a little worn out. They could afford to be worn out, because they had built a legacy of decades of customer trust. (Renaissance Books, Downtown Books, the Turning Page, these were the shops of my youth.) When you are a community institution, you spend a little less on new paint and a little more on serving the clientele.

The same was true of Globe News.

Photo from Globe News Facebook page

Honestly, the first few times I visited, the mysterious back room wasn’t open. So I got lost in the new magazines — other than Barnes & Noble, I hadn’t seen so many new and unusual magazines in one space. And the orders were more eclectic than B&N would ever be — I picked up Finnish newspapers, anarchist journals, and literary magazines, ordered often in onesies and twosies, the sign of someone just trying their best to see what would sell.

After Carlson’s closed, having a place that was willing to try so much, so eclectically, was important.

There were greeting cards and office supplies, too — the kind of stuff you would expect at the most conveniently located shop in the middle of a downtown area. Soda pops and newspapers, a bigger variety of papers than you could find anywhere in town, equipment for coin and stamp collectors — a little bit of everything. I feel like there were video game things, too, but I never care about video games, so I can’t really remember.

Photo from Globe News Facebook page

New magazines were replaced with collectible and antique magazines. Eventually, the greeting cards were replaced with the remnants of The Vinyl Cave. I remember talking with Unterberger about the closing of the Electric Fetus, asking what the center of the local music scene (for buying CDs and records) would be, absent the Electric Fetus, and he immediately reminded me that he’s long carried music by local musicians.

But the back room …

Ok, so I never cared about the sports magazines, sports cards, or other sports collectibles. I loved the CDs — the only place in the Twin Ports to find Frontline Assembly discs was at Tom’s, likely because someone sold him a collection and Tom was always willing to try. The Magic: The Gathering cards were plentiful and cheaper than anywhere in the Twin Ports. The Dungeons and Dragons books, on the floor by the door, were used, often well-loved, and affordable.

But two things set the store apart.

1) Globe carried the largest array of comics within 150 miles, a bigger array of comics than available in even many shops in the Twin Cities. He carried a few new comics (based on the ones his magazine distributor made available — so the Spiderman and Archie), but his back issues were deep. Millie the Model. The Nam. The Savage Sword of Conan. The Inferior Five. The Phantom. Everything under the sun. Today’s youth don’t get the ways that the back issue-only comic shop was, for a long time, the core of the industry. Stores like Globe, in other cities, pay collectors by the pound for massive collections, then push them out under market value.  Here in Duluth, I can spend $4 on a 22-page, new comic at Collector’s Connection, or I could spend $1-5 on a 32-80 page comic from yesteryear — so much more to read, so much history to absorb. Now that so many “graphic novels” are available at Barnes & Noble, the need for these old, cheap back issues has diminished, but wow, Globe was a gem.

2) CDs, albums, books, comics at the Globe — they were “kind of” organized. Like, you still had to dig and bend over. I always imagined that this was intentional, like the tradeoff was lower prices for less organization. But man, this means that when you found a gem, you felt like your patience was rewarded.

But the biggest gem was chatting with Tom, sharing passions for old comics, sharing mutual friendships (especially with Tim Broman and Greg Culver).

New Owners

I’m excited to meet the new owners. I worry, a little, that their plans to modernize the shop will lead to it losing its essential space in the Duluth-Superior scene. Other shops in the area, recently opened, are “modern,” organized, and comparatively soulless.

What I loved best about Globe, as a place to visit, was the fact that I could bring my friend Kyle Wills there, to shop the records; I could bring Zomi Bloom there to browse the books and new magazines. I could bring Roy C. Booth there to shop for comics. And there was kitsch for my out-of-town visitors, family and friends, who wanted a knickknack to take home. It was a little bit of everything. In that, it represented the genius of its owner, who was willing to try just about anything. The store represented a man whose passions were wide and diverse and, because of that, he could hold a conversation with just about anyone, find a common point of interest and connection.

Those kinds of retailers are rare and hard to find. Those kinds of people are rare and hard to find.  When I stop by the shop next week, I hope to find these experiences with the new owners, but I thought taking a second to document “what was” would also be valuable.

Photo of Jon Fritsche, one of the new owners, from the Globe News Facebook page


Matthew James

about 1 year ago

I did a quick search to see when Carlson Book & Record closed and found this quite nice interior photo on Flickr from just after the closing.

And then in an old Perfect Duluth Day post about a photography exhibit in commemoration of the store's closing, I came across a remarkably specific and evocative prose poem that seemed possibly written by Allen Ginsberg but actually comes from a former Carlson employee. 

Because it's buried in the comments of the old post, I'll copy the text here:

no photography can ever match the long term insanity this place has caused me. (and i don't think i can stand looking.) remember the mushrooms growing in the carpet in the "annex"? the fifty-year-old piles of soda bottles upstairs? the night we came in to work to find that the jerry-rigged, too-high shelving in the annex had fallen like dominoes? (i just turned on my heel and left that day, refusing to gaze upon all my hard work in a gigantic pile on the floor. even if it did include the romance section) the smoking Jerry-rigged electrical system that made customers and inspectors alike swoon like 18th century ladies? the evening some freak shit in the classics aisle and wiped his ass with a copy of Madame Bovary? Daniel, flat on his ass, muttering in Russian? the day Katastrophic Kari peed on the floor in the porn section, and passed out on the ramp with her tee-shirt up around her waist, no undies? the day we arrived at work to find the IRS blockading the door? the holes in the walls and gaps stuffed with porn where the creeps could hide and wank? the weirdos, the tweekers, the porn addicts, the japanese vinyl hunters, the dismayed and angry tourists, the aghast, the scroungers, the homeless, the drunks we knew and loved, the drunks we hated, the 86'd, the lurkers, the thieves (oh, the thieves!)? the endless cry for hand-outs, the gambler's hand in the till? the endless insubordination that kept the doors open? the hiding of cash beneath the drawer so it wouldn't go drifting out the door? Angela and Larry and their sick relationship playing out in marijuana tinged paranoia, Jerry the "electrician", his girlfriend Brenda (who died while no one was looking), Loud Kate (now safe and enjoying her retirement in AZ), Craig the sleezy magician, and Daniel the fallen Russian Aristocrat, Bob the album snob, and the amiable Lumpy G. Ernie, who never wore socks, even in winter. the short-timers like Leona and Dave, who apparently got their jobs because they slept with the de facto manager. the Supreme Evil that was Bud. Laurie, whose death was mysterious in its lack of surprise. the Old Man--the mystery, the incomprehensible stubbornness that was the Old Man. an enigma, a source of inestimable frustration, kind to a fault, weak in his self-indulgence, but incredibly strong in his love for those who were wounded and unwanted. no one remembered that he was the man responsible for making the First Amendment count in Minnesota--that the bookstore was his last stand, the remains of an always wobbly empire. the day his son died, the ancient timbers of that building shook with his grief--a sound i'll never forget as long as i live. damn. i'm all teary now. the fact is that i could barely stand to visit the place after the Carlson's sign was painted over. i had no money to spend anyway--but it was the change i couldn't bear to witness. it was like i could only walk through it with my eyes closed to keep it as it was in had to remain untarnished in my memory. but after Bud and Heather ripped off Ben and Kevin, i boycotted forever. RIP, Duluth's Finest Tourist Attraction. your story is yet to be told. photos are only a tease. Posted by: hbh | August 16, 2008 11:31 AM


about 1 year ago

AWww man, I started reading it and thought, hey that sounds like me. And then I realized it was me.

Matthew James

about 1 year ago

Well, I hope you enjoyed the writings of your somewhat younger self as much as I did. I'd like to put your Carlson's eulogy on a bronze plaque and mount it on the exterior wall of Blacklist Brewing Company somewhere by where the front door of Carlson's used to be, but I'm guessing there might be a few obstacles to implementing that idea.


about 1 year ago

I hadn't calculated the effect that store's closing had on other, um, downtown places with books. Some characters still persist.

Matthew James

about 1 year ago

Right... The Globe isn't the only place remaining in the Twin Ports with an eclectic collection of materials available to patrons at a low price.

Helmut Flaag

about 1 year ago

Major Bummer MJ, actually. And the last straw. Darkness...

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