So after Borders, now what?
What will it take for another bookseller to open shop in the Borders/Shaman Drum neighborhood at State and Liberty, and operate a browseable place with content deep and wide? We’re talking about a books-and-mortar store a stone’s throw from the University of Michigan campus. A spot where you arrange to meet up with your husband after the two of you go your separate ways for an hour. Where you hang out until the movie starts at the Michigan Theater. Where you actually buy a book now and then – sometimes a title other than the one that got you in the real, live door.
Keith Taylor, the poet, UM creative writing teacher and veteran local bookseller, says “it will take idealism, a lot of 80-hour work weeks, a willingness to be constantly present.”
Check, check and check. This is Ann Arbor, after all.
And then there’s Taylor’s fourth condition: “A landlord willing to rent space for less than the going rate.”
“Rents in central Ann Arbor right now will not allow for an independent bookstore, or an independent anything,” he says, “until the business owner owns the building the store is in.”
Karl Pohrt concurs – and the owner of the former Shaman Drum Bookshop, but not the building that housed it, should know: “It’s essential to own the building. If they don’t, they’ll be vulnerable.”
“Rent,” replies Nicola Rooney flatly when the proprietor of Nicola’s Books is asked why she won’t consider a move from Westgate Shopping Center to the State Street area.
We knew that, really. This is downtown Ann Arbor, after all. The market apparently won’t bear an independent bookstore in that neighborhood – Shaman Drum, which was located on South State just around the corner from Borders, closed in 2009 after nearly 30 years in business. Its former storefront is now a burger joint.
So the real question is this: If the market won’t bear a full-blown downtown bookstore, how will the community respond?