Monrovia High School purchases 520 copies of Michael Koryta's "Those Who Wish Me Dead" from Morgenstern's
Monrovia is a town in Morgan County, IN, about 30 miles north of Bloomington, with a population of just over a thousand. So we were surprised — but delighted — when Julie Dimmack reached out to us to order 520 copies of a book by Bloomington-based author Michael Koryta. Which were personally delivered by founder Rick Morgenstern. Mitch Teplitsky spoke with Julie to learn how this came about:
What's your position at the school?
I am an English teacher and the department chair of Monrovia High School. This is my 20th year.
Tell me about buying 520 copies of a single book!
We are launching our annual community book club, One Town, One Book. We received grant money through The Community Foundation of Morgan County's new Thrive Grant. They matched the money we received from the Morgan County Coalition for Literacy, Morgan County Public Library, Monrovia HS and Tri Kappa of Morgan County. Every household linked to our school receives a copy: students, teachers, aids, administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria ladies, custodians, security officers.
How did you choose Michael Koryta's book?
Two important parts of our grant are choosing a high interest novel by an Indiana author and purchasing through a local independent bookseller. We thought that the boy in Those Who Wish Me Dead and his survival skills would be interesting to our students and community.
How did you connect with Morgenstern's?
There are not too many independent booksellers in the area. When we knew Koryta was our author, we chose the bookseller in his town. We knew about you because most of our teacher/librarian crew have spent time in Bloomington.
What was your experience working with us? (you can be honest:)
We had a great experience with efficient service and thorough communication with you guys.
Meet Café Manager Sazi Shields
"Coffee shops are such a positive environment. It's warm drinks, it's comfort food. It's caffeine. It's giving people energy. It's giving kids chocolate chip cookies. There's nothing to dislike about a coffee shop!"
Mitch Teplitsky finally caught up with the always-in-motion Sazi Shields for this interview. Over coffee, of course.
Everyone love cafés, but I bet lots of us don't think much about all the work it takes to manage one! What's your job?
I oversee scheduling, ordering, inventory, hiring and training for the café, and work barista shifts as needed. I track trends and seasonal events to create drink specials, and maintain quality assurance and product consistency. I advise on cafe-related marketing and social media posts, and will be booking musicians for our upcoming live music Sundays.
Whew, no wonder you're always in motion! How did you learn all that? What was life before Morgenstern's?
I've always had a passion for food service. I managed several other restaurants in Bloomington before this. My first-ever job was working for the Scholars Inn Bakehouse as a teenager. About a decade ago, I worked as a barista at Barnes & Noble, with (Morgenstern booksellers) Helmut and Lindsay, so that's been a great reunion.
I learned early on that I adore food service. It's fun, it's fast-paced, it's very public. I'm an extrovert — I love asking 200 people a day "how's your day going, what can I do for you?"
What are some of the new things you're planning?
We'll be expanding the menu a bit to include more savory options, especially since our soups have been so popular. We're doing more seasonal drinks. Hersha and Liam (Senior Baristas) are always coming to me with great ideas, which I adore. And as soon as COVID allows, we're looking at getting more local music.
How have people's tastes changed since you first started?
The biggest thing, and it's not something I anticipated, are the non-dairy milks. When I was at Barnes & Noble, they didn't have oat milk and dairy milk — that wasn't a thing then. And — not that anyone who doesn't work in a café would need to know this — non-dairy milks are prepared differently. They have different textures and different fat content, and interact differently with cold and hot drinks. So that's been challenging and fun.
What's your favorite go-to snack and beverage at the café?
I adore the almond croissants from Scholars. I really like our asiago bagels. And I love our Betty White drink — a rose-flavored white mocha is exactly what I want from a coffee drink.
You grew up in Bloomington, and your parents are still here. Have they visited the store?
Yes! Both my parents were very impressed. Especially my Dad, Andy Hollinden. He teaches the history of Rock and Roll at IU. He loves browsing through the music section.
Don't tell me, you're a musician too?
Yes. Right now the project I'm working on is kind of a '90s grungy rock kind of vibe. When left to my own devices, my piano music is more like Elton John. I recently got a Beach Boys book I'm super excited about. But generally, it's traditional rock bands for me. I've done prog metal, and shoegaze, and --
Shoegaze? What's that?
It's a type of atmospheric, doom rock. Very wall of sound, layering of tones.
Wow, I'm so out of touch. At least I heard of Elton John and the Beach Boys. Anything else you're up to, outside the café?
I'm taking my yoga instructor certification, at Ekah Yoga. I took my first yoga classes back in 2014, and have had a personal practice ever since. I have a lot of interests!
Anything else you'd like to say about the café?
Our café is such a great space. The atmosphere is fantastic. We're blessed to have a very well-trained staff, who the customers recognize and enjoy seeing every day. It's a joy to be here!
Next time you're in the store, say hi to Sazi — they want to know how your day is going! They are also always on the lookout for new vendors and items, and musicians to book for our forthcoming live music Sundays.
Spotted in the Store: Gloria Howell
Gloria Howell is the Director of the Neal-Marshall Black Cultural Center.
From Mississippi to Indiana
I grew up in a very small town called New Albany, Mississippi. I came to IU in 2013 to work on my PhD in Higher Ed. I finished that, and I'm still here.
Education is Freedom. Especially the Arts.
I'm really passionate about education. For me, education is freedom. I think education can free us. And not just traditional forms of education. My dissertation and research are on the arts. I think the arts are one of the few things everybody can get. Maybe not from a talent perspective, but something everybody can learn from and grow from. I think everybody should have access to the arts, no matter what their resources.
Telling Black Stories
The Neal-Marshall Black Cultural Center is one of the oldest black culture centers in the country. In 2019-20, we celebrated our 50th year anniversary. We focused a lot of attention that year on honoring our ancestors, the people who made things possible at IU for black students, faculty and staff.
When I became the director in 2020, I wanted us to continue to have a thematic focus for our programming. And so I thought, let's have a theme of black stories, to tell the stories of those who came before us. This year's Black History Month theme is "The Show Goes On. From gospel to blues to rap, dance to poetry to literature, to photography and visual arts - we can find stories of the journey to freedom, civil rights, and equity.
Her claim to fame
"The Glow" is my claim to fame, at Crumble. It's a white chocolate and macadamia nut latte. I used to go there all the time when I was a student, and ordered that drink. They finally named it after me.