Get a book in Spanish or English at the Little Free Library in front of Nokomis Tattoo (4933 S. 34th Ave.). It is now bilingual.
Through an informal partnership with other local business owners, Nokomis Tattoo owner Mike Welch officially began adding Spanish books on Jan. 20, 2021.
“I’m a strong advocate that diversity makes a community stronger,” said Welch. “If people live in an area where they feel welcomed and included then they’ll be more inclined to take pride in that area. Everyone benefits from those things.”
Raul Morales owns Nokomis Surplus next door (4935 S. 34th Ave.) and has lived upstairs since April 2020 when he moved from Burnsville. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “It makes the neighborhood more inviting to Spanish-speaking people. It really shows how supportive the neighborhood is to racial equality. It supports the little guys who are taking Spanish in school.”
Brothers Roberto and Javier Grande of Grande Sunrise Mexican Restaurant (5554 S. 34th Ave.) are also contributing books to this Little Free Library (LFL). Roberto said he was surprised when Welch mentioned it, and didn’t expect that conversation. He quickly offered his help and they started collecting books in Spanish to add to the LFL.
“We have a lot of Spanish speakers around us,” Roberto observed. “I think they will accept this.”
“It’s so cool,” added Javier.
Irreverent Bookworm owner Meg Niesen lives in the area near Welch, and adds books to this Little Free Library.
Ward 11 Minneapolis Council Member Jeremy Schroeder has a Little Free Library in his own front yard, and appreciates how these informal community spaces bring neighbors together. He keeps a box of books in his home to fill his library with when it empties.
“It’s a great way to connect with the community,” Schroeder said, and he’s glad to see a designated bilingual one in the area with a plaque in English and Spanish.
“I’ve always loved all the little libraries in our neighborhood. It’s just such a great idea and an easy way to build up interaction in your local community,” remarked Welch. “Ours has been super successful and fun. The books fly out of it.”
The most popular item is the MN Invents book that has been donated periodically by fellow Nokomis East Business Association member Jeff Johnson of Design Replace (5008 S 34th Ave.). “We will literally post that there are a few copies in the library and they’ll be cleared out within days,” said Welch.
Two years ago, Welch was waiting for his credit union to open when he saw a Little Free Library there and realized businesses could have them. It got his wheels turning, and he looked for someone to build one. The first builder didn’t follow through, so he sought out an alternative on social media last summer.
Built by Sly Fox in just 10 days, the Little Free Library is a smaller copy of the yellow Nokomis Tattoo building. Up next, the dog murals on the side of the building will be replicated on the LFL.
This LFL is also set apart by the doggie treat door on the side, which Kyle and Leah Heino of Nokomis Life help keep full.
“My wife and I are really happy with how this took off,” said Welch. “It was all awesome, but I still felt something was missing. I couldn’t figure it out, but one day it hit me. We have a bunch of Spanish-speaking people in Nokomis East and it only made sense to go the distance and change the little library into a bilingual one. We welcome everyone into the tattoo shop and have Spanish and English release forms so the little library shouldn’t be any different. We’re friends with so many of the LatinX businesses in the area. We got on the horn, and the first two we hit up were all about it and that was Nokomis Surplus and Grande Sunrise Restaurant. They sent lists of book titles. We purchased a few from those lists and then eventually they donated a ton of books, too.
“It’s really come together.”