There was a moment during last June’s David Sedaris reading when I looked around and thought, “Is this real?”
Many people thought we were nuts opening a bookstore in a city where a bunch of bookstores closed down. And yet, here was this wonderful author who drew 350+ people (including people who waited outside at 2:30am for tickets) and was in the prime of his career reading at the store. It was a moment when I looked around and thought, “Hey, maybe we can actually do this.” Until that point, it had been go-go-go. We hadn’t had a chance to reflect, constantly moving, scanning, shelving… Then, we finally stopped and simply listened to David, my heart swelled with an immeasurable amount of thanks for everyone who had helped us get this far, this quickly.
Since the David Sedaris reading (who was amazing and signed books until 1am), we’ve had a great summer. We ordered some cool new shopping bags designed by the wonderful Samantha Schroeder (you can cut them out and make bookmarks with them!).
We expanded our inventory and purchased new bookcases. We hired an Events Coordinator. We started new book clubs. Some of you may have heard rumors about expansion with an events space — more on that soon.
We also hosted wonderful readings and events. Some of those included critically acclaimed authors like Leslie Jamison (The Empathy Exams), Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist), and Celeste Ng (Everything I Never Told You). We hosted a huge Independent Press Day featuring several awesome independent presses like Two Dollar Radio, Short Flight/Long Drive, and Midwestern Gothic. We had a fantastic book signing at 826michigan with the great Dave Eggers.
We have fantastic events lined up this fall, too. We are fortunate to be the bookseller for the Zell Visiting Writers Series in partnership with UMMA. (Woooo!) There are Can’t-Miss readings scheduled, including the extremely talented Philip Stead, Chris Van Allsburg, and some off-site readings we’re thrilled about, including with U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass and the esteemed Mary Ruefle. We have fun stuff planned, including a concert and story time with Ann Arbor’s world-famous Violin Monster on Devil’s Night and another “Book Themed Halloween Costume Contest.” (See the below post for how awesome Violin Monster is.) We’re hosting an event for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month where we’re donating 100% of book sales at that event. We have a new “Feminist Book Club” that we host once a month. Whew! Lots going on. Please check out the full events calendar here.
Speaking of events, it’s difficult for new bookstores to attract new and big authors. Which is why we’re sending our Events Coordinator, whom we hired full-time last winter, to New York City next week. John Ganiard, who does maybe the best introductions on the planet (including an introduction Sedaris said was the best he’d ever received), will be visiting various publishing houses to attract more authors to our store and to downtown Ann Arbor. Our events have been successful and well-attended. With a new events space, this will continue.
We’re also working on expanding our inventory. Hopefully we’ll have more science, psychology, philosophy, and social science books and display tables on the lower level. We’ll be expanding our local section and putting it in a place where it will be featured. We want to create a “literary non-fiction” section in the lower level that combines memoir, essay, and lit-crit. Hopefully much of this will be done before the holidays. If not, we’ll have fun reorganizing during Polar Vortex 2.0.
This fall, I hope you will see quite a few improvements and new things in the store. All of this is possible because you, Ann Arbor, have supported us. To be honest, Hilary and I said we will consider ourselves successful if we reach Year Three. Year Three was that seemingly “far off” destination when we’d have a strong idea how we were doing. Starting a business is (what I imagine to be) like having a kid. Year Three is when they are walking, talking, and can be functional on their own. (Slightly.)
We’re halfway there. But, now, we can see ahead of Year Three — a little further down the road. We’re constantly doing the daily things we need to do… things like returns and curating inventory and hosting nightly events. But we’re also looking down the road at Year Five, Year Ten, Year Twenty, and what kind of bookstore downtown Ann Arbor deserves. We’re planning for the future.
This strange and unforeseen “future” has only been possible to imagine because you have embraced us. We are by no means out of the danger-zone. The industry is changing, people are reading digitally, and the market is altering. But that market is also leveling out. People are, in some cases, returning to their independent bookstore and saying, “I am here because I want you to be here.”
Thank you, Ann Arbor, for your support and kindness and warmth. You have made it clear so far that, even though books and bookstores are a tough industry, this small downtown indie bookstore has more than a fighting chance.