Rima Parikh is passionate about science.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Eden Prairie resident opened The Thinking Spot, a community bookstore in Wayzata with the mission to promote STEM learning in the broader society. The acronym STEM represents Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math as a single building block for delivering quality education in schools.
Her bookstore maintains an extensive collection of 5,000 STEM-focused books for all ages.
Born amid COVID headwinds
Opening a bookstore was always at the very top in Parikh’s post-retirement bucket list.
When COVID hit, she asked herself, “Why wait? If I want to do something, do it now.” She quit her job at the end of April 2021 and jumped right in, full-time.
Parikh also offered a more philosophical rationale. Her corporate job was very lucrative, she said. But at some point, “… you get to decide, how much more do you need to live? … Life is short, you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
That realization compelled her to steer away from the corporate world and embark on her new project.
“This bookstore is my dream,” she said with a smile.
The Thinking Spot opened its doors on November 26.
The origins of the store’s name grew from memories of storytelling with her own children.
“When my kids were younger, they used to read the Winnie the Pooh series,” she said. “Yes, I really loved those books. Winnie the Pooh would go to this pool, under a tree, where he would sit on a log and would just think. It was called ‘Thinking Spot.’”
To Parikh, Pooh’s hangout place felt like a bookstore, “…a place to visit, sit down, slow down and relax. It was where one would dig deeper and take time to think.”
She saw herself replicating that very experience for humans.
“In this day and age of just rush, rush, there isn’t a place to just kind of quiet down and take a step back,” she said. A bookstore called The Thinking Spot seemed to achieve that vision.
The source of inspiration
Parikh said Alan Alda of MASH fame was her original inspiration. “His science communication in books and podcasts inspired me,” she said. “I always wanted to make science accessible to everybody.”
Parikh is an ardent reader. She owns a lot of interesting science books, that are different from textbooks. “They are easier to read but not easily available,” she said.
“Chains like Barnes and Noble and even independent booksellers might have a science shelf at the back,” she said. “But a variety of topics is just not there.”
Science seemed to be taking a backseat and she wanted to fill the gap.
Focus on science and community
“Science is the future of this world,” Parikh said. “Everybody needs it. It’s everywhere, everything you do, and touch has some form of science in it.”
Despite all of that, science has taken on mistaken identity, she said. People think it is difficult to understand and not meant for everyone.
She is confident that The Thinking Spot will bust the myth that science is difficult to learn.
“It is behind everything,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that one has to be a chemical engineer or mechanical engineer to appreciate science.”
Storytelling with learning
One of Parikh’s biggest challenges was to find the unique kinds of books she wanted for The Thinking Spot.
Publishers and wholesalers provide best sellers, but Parikh was more interested in books that don’t sell well in regular bookstores.
So, she took on a very labor-intensive task. She spent the entire summer going through lists and lists of books picking the ones she would like to read personally.
Her primary criterion was to stock only those books that combine storytelling with learning, and also are fun to read.
A community hub
Parikh’s goal is to make The Thinking Spot an inspiring and nurturing environment full of books that deliver depth and quality of knowledge for the whole community.
“My idea of making science accessible is not just with a bookstore,” Parikh said. “It’s a gathering place for those working in science and technology. I expect them to come here and educate others in the community about what they do and why.”
Parikh believes every visit to the store will reinforce the message: Science is not something that you have to be afraid of and there are tons of books that will help you recognize that.
She aspires to make The Thinking Spot a hub for local communities, including the western suburbs of Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins, Plymouth, and Wayzata.
It should become a place for people to hang out, she said, a place where there’s something happening, a speaker, something to learn, intelligent games, a fun place for both kids and adults.
Getting to know The Thinking Spot
Parikh is using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to get the word out. For the open house, she reached out to neighboring communities and businesses. She is also working to connect with a variety of community organizations.
At the store entrance, visitors are greeted by a book display showcasing the work of local authors and publishers.
Parikh plans regular author visits and readings. The first of those events is scheduled for February 5. It will feature Ben Orlin, author of the new book, Math with Bad Drawings. Orlin taught at St. Paul Academy. Details about that event are available on the store’s website.
The Thinking Spot is located at 3311 County Road 101, Suite 4, Wayzata.
Editor’s note: Vijay Dixit is the chairman of Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation, a 501-c-3 nonprofit advocating distraction-free driving. He is also a board member of Eden Prairie Local News and a member of the EPLN Development Committee and journalism team.
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