Meet Josie Danz

Josie Danz is a familiar face and voice in the Fargo, N.D. area. She writes a column for The Forum newspaper and can often be seen handling things downtown at Zandbroz, a local bookstore. She spoke with Ladyboss about the heightened importance of shopping local, the absolute must-read book right now, and the most important meal of the day.

Tell us a bit about yourself:

Since I was a little girl, I’ve been wildly independent and relentlessly curious. Sometimes I think this works to my disadvantage as my life would likely be a lot easier if I wasn’t constantly asking, “What’s next?” and didn’t adamantly believe that there’s always a next level to seek to achieve in everything one does. Sometimes it would be nice to settle in and be content, but then again, what fun would that be? When I’m not working at Zandbroz – which let’s be honest, even if I’m not at the store, I’m thinking about the store – I’m probably writing my column that I contribute to The Forum, running, or decompressing and spending time with my partner.

How are you doing right now:

If we’re talking right now in this very moment, great and like I’ve got everything together – lots of motivation! But if you asked me again tomorrow, or even a few hours from now, I may very likely give you a totally different answer! I think that’s true for most of us these days. I’ve been trying to allow myself to really feel all the emotions that the past year has brought on and then sit with them. I’ve notoriously spent a lot of my life staying busy in order to distract myself from how I’m feeling or from what I actually need. I learned the hard way that numbing my emotions or the demands of my body with busyness or physical activity only delays the inevitable – either a mental or physical crash which forces me to finally pay attention to all the things I’ve been neglecting. So, although it’s uncomfortable, I’ve been trying to be more mindful of the waves of emotions, the effects of a lack of routine, and humble awakening to my privilege and the work I need to put in to become a better ally to all those around me that 2020 has gifted me. My gentle, and constant reminder to myself this year has been, “It’s okay to not be okay”. Was that an overshare? Ah well, I’ve also been trying to be more vulnerable this year.

How did you get involved in your work?

Zandbroz is a family business started by my dad and my uncle Jeff with undying influence from my mom and aunt as well. Growing up, every day was “bring your daughter to work” day. I loved spending hours at Zandbroz cozied up in a corner reading endless books, “helping” my dad, and relentlessly pestering all the Zandbrozians that I looked up to (most were college aged, so I thought they were SO cool). As I got older and went off to college, people would ask if I planned on taking over Zandbroz someday. Without hesitating, my answer was an adamant “no”. However, after several years away from Fargo, and trying to work in the corporate world, I desperately missed the world of small business. In 2011 I quit my 9-5 job and committed to working side by side with my dad as the manager at Zandbroz. For nearly a decade, I’ve been able to play a significant role in the daily operations and continual evolution of Zandbroz. You can see my influence at the store through our social media, the broader selection of cards, and the curation of the books. As for what my future holds, the only commitment I’ve made is to be open to any and all opportunities that present themselves.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Breakfast? I’m only half joking. But seriously, I love mornings. I love their quiet, low pressure beauty. For me, the morning shapes my entire day, so I know that I have to take full advantage of those hours before the responsibilities of the day are before me. The time between when I wake up, and actually get up, can be dangerous because I tend to overthink things. The longer I stay in bed, the more likely the potential for doom and gloom to set in is. In an effort not to be held hostage by anxiety or brooding, I’ve gotten really good at getting out of bed as soon as I open my eyes and not letting negativity start my days. I use the early mornings to be 100% selfish and pursue the things that make me a better person to everyone else I interact with the rest of the day. I run every morning, I read a little or a lot, and I try to write a bit either for my column or in one of the seemingly ten journals I have going at any given time. Circling back to breakfast, I honestly don’t get to any of that though before I have breakfast!

Why should people buy books locally instead of, say, on Amazon?

I think that more attention has been brought to this notion in light of recent events and thanks to COVID-19, but it’s always been true. Small businesses define our communities and separate them from Anywhere USA. Independent bookstores are no exception. These days, one can buy books almost anywhere – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Costco, grocery stores, but those places aren’t defined by books. Those places sell books, but they don’t necessarily know books. The beauty of indie bookstores is that though they may not be able to sell everything, what they do sell is well-curated. The selection of books isn’t based on algorithms or absentmindedly decided upon based on what the current best-sellers are. Many of the books are ones that the staff has read, can recommend, and are like friends whose acquaintance they want their customers to make. Indie bookstores cater to their community and customers in a personalized and custom way. The selections reflect the interests and values not only of the booksellers, but of the community. Whether you like it or not, you can walk into an independent bookstore and the staff will gladly chat books with you, make recommendations, and be happy to have your recommendations to work into their curation.

What is a really great book you recommend people read right now?

Unquestioningly, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. In the wake of the George Floyd protests and the realization that a lot of us have a lot of self-educating to do in order to be more informed on the social injustices and the reality of white privilege that shapes our lives, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. This is the perfect book for that. Though reading it may frustrate you, humble you, and make you re-think what you thought you knew, that’s the very reason you need to read it. Wilkerson makes it painfully clear how much of American History a lot of us were ignorant to, but she does so in a way that won’t overwhelm you, guilt you, or make you think we’re doomed. The book opens pathways to better understanding, new perspective, and hope for America to own its past and improve its future. Wilkerson doesn’t overwhelm the reader with statistics or hard to consume facts and language, instead she offers poignant stories of individuals, including her own, that enlighten the reader to begin to see how our culture has always been defined by a caste system to which we’re still shackled.

What do you think small business owners need right now?

Small businesses need what they’ve always needed – the support of their communities. But beyond that I think the thing small businesses need most is grace, understanding, and kindness. This pandemic has put a wrench in the operations of nearly every small business which has forced them to shape-shift and respond in ways they had never could have anticipated. Small businesses don’t know any better than the rest of us what tomorrow is going to bring, and the uncertainty is challenging. In Fargo, it’s been beautiful to see how small businesses have responded and found new and creative ways to serve their communities. I think it highlights that though the way they do business might be reimagined, their purpose has remained steady, which is to offer their communities a passion they want to share. Every small business I can think of is committed to prioritizing the well-being of their community over all else. Entering fourth quarter, it’s more important than ever to support local businesses – not just for one weekend, but all season long. Take advantage of the creative ways they’re showing up for you! Shop with them online, place curbside orders, buy gift certificates, book private shopping appointments, and make an effort to buy things you might have bought at a big box store or from Amazon from a local business. Most importantly though, just remember that small businesses are genuinely doing the best they can. Let’s do our best to be patient, supportive, and kind to one another.