She makes customers feel like friends

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Jennifer White (left), Louise White and Candi Walker from Paper Moon

Throughout March, which is Women’s History Month, the Times-Register is again publishing a series of articles highlighting local women. Whether it’s through their careers, hobbies, volunteer efforts or unique personalities, these women have inspired others.



By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


“Ladies” and “cats.” Those are two of the most popular words people use when leaving an online review about McGregor’s Paper Moon bookstore. Because, while perusing the shop’s book selection and unique gifts is an experience in itself, a visit isn’t complete without interacting with the friendly felines and their even friendlier owners—mother and daughter Louise and Jennifer White.


“When they have the day off, people will ask, ‘Where’s Jen and Louise?’ They have a following,” said Paper Moon staff member Candi Walker. “When people come in, they make them feel like friends, not just customers.”


She’s seen similar crestfallen faces when the kitties don’t make an appearance.


“When Jen’s off and the cats stay home, I always feel so bad. ‘Where are the cats?’ I say, ‘Oh, they have today off,’” Candi joked. “People come for the cats.”


The Whites have had a business in McGregor since the 1970s, when White’s Antiques opened. Then, Louise was curious about selling books. She found a distributor in Minneapolis and began talking to dealers. 


“Then, we made the plunge. I was down at the Masonic Building [on McGregor’s Main Street], and it was pretty much half books and half antiques,” Louise recalled. “Then I decided I needed to buy a building. I was walking up and down McGregor’s Main Street and saw a for sale sign on this building.”


In less than a week, the current location at 206 A St. was there’s. 


That was in 1994, said Louise. Before long, her husband Ken was installing the interior balcony. The couple also completed HVAC work and made use of 40 gallons of paint. 


“While he was building, I painted the ceiling, which is the original color, with a three-inch brush on a ladder. I was young then. I would do anything,” Louise said. “From the moment I bought this building, I was extremely aware of my responsibility to take care of this building and to keep it authentic. It’s almost like a living, breathing structure to me.”


Jen joined the business in 1997. Although the two had worked together before—in a tea garden behind the Masonic Building while Jen was in college—this time was going to be a one-year trial.


She hasn’t left.


Over 25 years, the Whites have overseen continued building renovations, including an expansion to the second floor and the addition of rooftop solar. They successfully weathered McGregor’s 2017 tornado, then later the COVID-19 pandemic, and have battled rising operating and living costs—thankful for legislation like the Affordable Care Act that made securing insurance as a small business owner easier.


“It hasn’t always been easy doing this. There’s been a lot of hurdles. A lot of tears,” Louise admitted. “A lot of people don’t realize how physical and intense it is.”


“We don’t just sit around and read,” added Jen. “You’re working weekends, you’re working holidays, you’re working on your birthday. You’re often working when your friends are off, so it’s hard to have a social life.”


The pluses certainly outweigh the minuses, though.


“I don’t know if it’s ever been about making money. It’s about trying to pay our bills and be here,” Jen shared. “Either of us, I don’t know what we’d do.”


The best part, according to Candi, is meeting new people in addition to interacting with loyal customers.


“You also love passing on books and products you love,” she said. “Louise has a group of people who come in and they’re like, ‘Louise, what should I read next?’ They love everything she reads. Jen started tabs on our website so you can see Louise’s picks or Jen’s picks, Shelly’s picks or my picks.”


The ladies often amaze customers with their ability to recall the person’s favorite books or genres.


“That’s the fun part,” Louise quipped. “We live and breathe by the big weekends, the tourist season, but I think I can say I like the every day and the every day weekends because you build that report you cannot do when you have a line to check out.”


Added Jen, “I love remembering what people read. It makes a difference to me when I’ve been on the other end. It’s important also to represent a small town, to represent rural America in a positive light. There’s such a fissure right now between rural and urban, but we have so much in common.”


While technology has hurt some book stores, an independent shop like Paper Moon has embraced online advances.


Louise said it’s made finding books—and book dealers—easier. The Paper Moon website and Facebook and Instagram presence has also added to sales.


“Last week, a gal came in because of a post about a cat cup. She said, ‘Oh, I saw it and I had to have it,’” Candi recalled.


“We’ve shipped out orders all over the country, and I’m not sure how they find us,” Jen said. “But we’ll also have customers who are at Daisy Kay across the street and they’ll see us and Google us and go to our website. They’ll come in because of a specific book they saw, and then they shop.”


“We’re not trying to be Amazon, we’re not trying to be Barnes and Noble,” she continued. “We try to get books Walmart doesn’t have because why would we want to compete. I love it when a customer comes in and they see an obscure book and say, ‘I have that on my Amazon list. I might as well get it here.’”


The ladies enjoy that generations of customers now shop at Paper Moon. People who visited as youngsters are now bringing in their children. 


Now, they too will get to experience the friendly felines and their even friendlier owners.


Because it’s not just the items inside a store, but who’s inside a store, that makes a difference.

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