You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

Literati Bookstore opens its doors in downtown Ann Arbor

By Ben Freed

This is no April fools joke.

With Good Friday, Easter, and April Fools Day all happening this weekend, the owners of Literati Bookstore in downtown Ann Arbor were hesitant to make an official announcement via social media, but the new independently-owned store quietly opened at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Washington Street on Sunday.

“We’ve been saying we’re ‘opening soon’ for a while now, so we didn’t want people to think we were joking,” co-owner Mike Gustafson said.

“And it’s just good to be able to have a slightly smaller crowd to work out little kinks that can happen with technology and other things when you first get going.”

By Monday afternoon a steady stream of customers were browsing the shelves of the two-story bookstore. Co-owner Hilary Lowe said the mix of shoppers who have come into the store has been a pleasant surprise.

“We had some preconceived notions about who our customers would be, but it’s really been all over the map,” Lowe said.

“We’ve had some people from the university come in, we had someone from Google who was very excited and said he was going to tell everyone in his office that we were opening.”

As the shoppers move from one shelf to the next, the likely are unaware of the extensive thought process that Gustafson and Lowe went through in arranging various sections in the store.

“It started out with just Mike and I laying it out, but we have three employees who are former Borders employees and they were often involved in helping move sections there so they were familiar with what goes where and how to make it flow,” Lowe said.

Joe Gable, who was the store manager of the original Borders, also helped us out with the sectioning which was cool.”

Eventually, they settled on fiction, poetry, and children’s books upstairs, with the downstairs dominated by non-fiction, including a sizable biographies and memoirs section. It wasn’t easy to place every section though.

“I think cookbooks changed spots five times or so,” Lowe said. “First it was upstairs, then downstairs, then back up again.”

The books rest on shelving that was used in the old Borders flagship store with the section names written above them in chalk. Gustafson said the store will continue to evolve as it learns to meet the needs of the community.

“We left room in our inventory to grow with what our customers needs and wants are,” he said.

The store has a “suggestion list” for people to write down their favorite titles and help shape the store’s character.

“We have a lot of what we love and what our employees really like,” Lowe said. “Now we have a chance to really interact with the community and see what they’re interested in.”

Community interaction will be a major theme for the store as it attempts to swim against conventional wisdom that bookstores are a dying breed. The co-owners, who also are engaged to be married, said they want their store to be a meeting place for the community and plan to host a wide variety of events aimed at different demographics.

“We have kids story time, a picture book release party, a poet, and a non-fiction book event already planned,” Lowe said. “Keeping the mix of genres and authors will keep people here and bring in people who might not have otherwise visited.”

Gustafson, who runs the store’s Facebook and Twitter pages, said he would like to see the store diversify even further.

“Our next chapter is building our program to include more creative events beyond author readings and signings,” he said. “We’d love to have panels, and we might do a storytelling series with Moth.”

While they are excited about their store’s potential, the couple acknowledged that there are challenges unique to small bookstores. With a smaller available space and inventory, there will always be books that aren’t readily available on the shelves. Lowe said the store has already received a number of special delivery orders, and that their system can have the book in the store within three days as long as it is in stock at their distributor’s warehouse.

The co-owners both grew up in Southeast Michigan, and moved back to the area from Brooklyn “to start a bookstore to bring books back to downtown Ann Arbor,” according to the store’s blog.

Lowe said the first book sold at the store once it officially opened was a novel by Nicholson Baker.

“It’s called The Anthologist, and it’s one of my favorites,” she said.

“It’s about a writer who is trying to write the introduction to a poetry anthology but he’s having a trouble getting it just right. In a way it was kind of fitting for it to be our first sale.”

Literati Bookstore is located at 124 E. Washington St. on the corner with Fourth Avenue. Though the hours are not yet set in stone, they are operating at this time from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and slightly longer hours on the weekend. For further information on events check the store’s website and Facebook page.

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Susan Kielb

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:54 p.m.

I bought my first Literati book this afternoon! I love the store. I was pulled in by several books that were laid out on the tables, and pleased to see some of my favorite recent reads there as well. There are many reasons to return over and over.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

Absolutely thrilled that Literati is open; now when we're "hangin' out" in Ann Arbor, I have a wonderful place to go to be surrounded by my favorite objects!


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

Joy, just pure joy!


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:42 p.m.

It's great to have a bookstore in Ann Arbor. Now, if they could add a coffee shop, a few panhandlers and a medical marijuana dispensary, why, everything'd be copacetic.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

Another locally-owned bookstore - Fantastic! It will be good to have a store selling new books, to complement the excellent used book stores we already have downtown. Best of luck, Mike and Hilary.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

This store should start a club! Complete with membership cards! I've always wanted to be a member of the literati.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

We visited last night and it is a great store! We picked up two unique books for our 1 year old's birthday.

Jaime Magiera

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 11:54 p.m.

Exciting! I'll be stopping in for sure, and chances are, becoming a regular. Wishing the best of luck to this venture.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

I went on Sunday and was so impressed! Literati did a wonderful job of putting together exactly what a small bookstore should be..... They don't try to be exhaustive, they'd never be able to have everything. But browsing was so delightful, and brought me to buy four books I had never seen or heard of. YAY! Thank you, Literati! And they have a wonderful children's and tween section that is stocked with books that are actually good reads, of good quality -- not product and character tie-ins. I'm so happy!


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 9:10 p.m.

I am so happy this business open in Ann Arbor. It is a perfect location and you have made the space look wonderful. I wish you all the best!


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:33 p.m.

I'm so excited I'm close to hyperventilating. This is one block from my office. Friday was payday, and I'm very happy to spend some of my discretionary income.

Melissa Towle

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

Thrilled to see they've opened - I can't wait to shop @ Literati at some point this week (and for years to come!). I'm also so thrilled they've ensured the Borders legacy lives on: in the fixturing we worked hard to design "just right"; in the awesome employees they've put back into the book business; in the love of books and how they can change both people and communities; and, that our Joe Gable played a role in helping turn this dream into a reality! He's the most incredible resource and I'm thrilled Literati connected with him - one of a kind from store 01! Welcome and congratulations! I cannot wait to see their beautiful creation in person very soon!


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:06 p.m.

Hopefully people will buy and not just browse. Remember folks, this is a business, not a library!

Jenn McKee

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:05 p.m.

The store looks beautiful - that flooring! Congrats to Gustafson and Lowe on the opening. Looking forward to checking it out in person soon.

Katrease Stafford

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 7:28 p.m.

This is awesome! Will definitely be checking this out soon. Nothing beats browsing "the stacks."

Janet Miller

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 7:27 p.m.

Lizzy: Every journalist (and non-journalist) should read "The Imperfectionists" by Tom Rachman. Relatively short, easy to read, relevant and so funny.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 7:24 p.m.

Do they have a magazine section?

Ben Freed

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 7:37 p.m.

Yes, they do. it's right at the front of the store. Not extensive, but I'm sure if you talk to the owners about a specific genre you like they'd be happy to look into it.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 7:17 p.m.

Help me! I want to buy a new book. I read the Hunger Games series, followed by One Hundred Years of Solitude, and now I haven't read a book in several months. Anyone have a suggestion?


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 3:33 a.m.

If you want just an enjoyable read that you can't put down and are sorry it ends, try "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer. If you don't like it, let me know and I'll reimburse you for the cost of the book. Gerry


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:36 a.m.

I also was going to suggest "Ender's Game". Have you also read the "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" series? They were very thrilling!! I almost missed Christmas eve dinner last year because I was deep in the 2nd book!!


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 10:46 p.m.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green The Dinner by Herman Koch Gone Girl by Gillean Flynn And if you enjoyed the Hunger Game, you should read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:51 p.m.

I ended up with two: Wild (thanks, Jenn) and Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson. It was recommended by an employee.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:23 p.m.

@LuvAA: I was so hooked on Gone Girl, I couldn't put it down!


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:17 p.m.

I look forward to checking this store out! Happy that they are willing to invest in a bookstore! A newer book "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn...suspenseful and keeps you guessing til the end! An old favorite "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini set in the backdrop of Afghanistan. "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova...a story on early onset Alzheimer's disease from the perspective of the patient and how she goes on with her life and the struggles of those around her. I also highly recommend! Happy reading!


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:12 p.m. - now a part of the Amazon family. :|


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:06 p.m.

Lizzy, Have you joined Great place to read book reviews and get advice. I'm almost finished with Age of Miracles and find it interesting.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:05 p.m.

Some of my favorite books: Middlesex, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Cider House Rules, Beloved, The Human Stain

Jenn McKee

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:03 p.m.

"The Time Traveler's Wife," by Audrey Niffeneggar, was a big favorite with my co-ed book group. I didn't think I'd like it, reading the description, but I got totally hooked. Also, if you like memoir, too, "Wild," by Cheryl Strayed, is wonderful.

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:01 p.m.

Consider Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. It is about the self-realization of an intelligent young woman, monarch butterflies, sheep-shearing, scientific field investigation, and global warming! She is a literary novelist but this takes you beyond the usual themes.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 7:53 p.m.

That's quite a range. Do you lean more towards YA or literary fiction?