Literati Bookstore, an Ann Arbor staple on East Washington Street, is temporarily shutting down its curbside and in-store operations, according to a statement on the bookstore’s website. The change went into effect Saturday.

According to an email from Literati staff to customers on Saturday, the store “will continue sending books direct-to-home from (its) distributor.”

“We hope to reopen as soon as we can,” the email states. “Thank you for your patience and thank you for supporting us during this challenging time.”

The temporary closure comes days after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer drafted a letter to top Michigan lawmakers requesting $100 million for families and small businesses. The letter was written in response to a stalemate in the federal government over a second round of financial relief for businesses. 

Literati, which has operated in downtown Ann Arbor since 2013, calls itself “a place where book lovers can go, talk and interact with each other.” The store was named Bookstore of the Year by Publisher’s Weekly in 2019. 

Paul Hile, a writer and Ann Arbor resident, first visited Literati on a trip home to Michigan from outside the state. Hile said he immediately “fell in love” with Literati when he visited for the first time.

Hile sees Literati as the “heart” of Ann Arbor and a store that offers not just books but also solace, education and reprieve. 

“There’s just something about Literati,” Hile said. “It’s always felt like it has a buzz to it. And it feels kind of like the heart of a community, and everybody has always been so gracious.” 

Like many other local businesses, Literati was forced to adapt to closures and an economic downturn at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, the bookstore launched a GoFundMe campaign that has since raised more than $120,000. During the pandemic, Literati introduced new programs including curbside pick-up, digital events and an online blog. 

Though Hile is saddened by Literati’s temporary closure, he said he understands the staff’s decision.

“It’s sad because I so desperately want them to get the support that they need, especially at this time of the year,” Hile said. “But I’m really proud that they’re a part of my community. And I’m really grateful that they make these decisions to keep their booksellers safe and to keep our community safe.”

Other Ann Arbor businesses have relied on community donations and government loans through the Paycheck Protection Program to stay afloat during the pandemic. With the PPP no longer in effect, Whitmer’s recent three-week epidemic order may hurt small businesses. 

In an email to customers in March at the start of the pandemic, Mike and Hilary Gustafson, the owners of Literati, said they were sad to see the store’s doors close temporarily.

“Hilary and I are a bit emotional and feel like we have some whiplash, as I’m sure many of you do, too,” Mike Gustafson wrote. “It is hard because we feel an intense need to come together as a community, and yet cannot do so physically.” 

Daily News Contributor Eli Friedman can be reached at elisf@umich.edu

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