Common Ground with… Dave Danielson

Common Ground with… Dave Danielson

Dave Danielson is the co-founder and co-president of Frugal Muse Books. A lifelong Madison resident, he met his business partners Bill and Howard 35 years ago when working at Half Price Books. Realizing he enjoyed life as a bookseller, he also wanted to be an entrepreneur, and finally took the leap to launch Frugal Muse in 1993. His favorite books include “Les Miserables,” “April Morning” and “Sometimes A Great Notion.”

What do you think is the biggest challenge our community faces?
The same as the challenges everyplace else, inflation. One of the things about selling used books is that it does help people’s book budget go a little further. While grocery prices are going up, you can still buy a heck of a lot of books with very little money.

The community might have a problem with finding labor. I see a lot of help wanted signs around, whereas (in) our 28 years we’ve never put up a help wanted sign. We’ve never taken out a help wanted ad in the paper. Hardly a month goes by that people don’t come in asking do we have any jobs. For some reason, people want to work in a bookstore. It might be more fun than being a clerk at Walgreens, being surrounded by literature.

What do you wish people in our community understood better?
I think most people do understand that it’s not easy starting a business and keeping it going, so I think they’re pretty sympathetic and want to support local businesses. We have a little sign in our window that says locally owned, and it does mean something to some people.

Most people understand that the book business faces challenges from electronics, with people getting their books on Kindle and everything— but there’s still a market out there for printed books. Maybe some young people that haven’t really discovered printed books should pick one up and find out, hey, it’s kind of nice to hold this book in your hands and it can’t be deleted mysteriously.

What is one change you would make if you could that would make life better for people in our community?
I don’t know, I’m not running for office… For the benefit of working people like myself and our employees, try to keep taxes down and focus on basic necessities of keeping the roads clear and stuff. Not getting too caught up in doing things for ideological reasons.

What in our community gives you hope?
There’s so many nice people in this community. I’m born and raised in Madison. Particularly as a bookseller — if you can’t operate a bookstore successfully in Madison, you’re probably not going to be able to operate one everywhere, because it’s a great book town. It’s a town of readers… that gives me hope.


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