In a college town such as Ann Arbor, there are plenty of stores where students can purchase textbooks, browse through a magazine or just sit quietly and read. However, in Ann Arbor, there are more than just the huge chains to attract customers, as smaller bookstores, with their unique collections, have done just fine for themselves.
Through its giant glass window, passersby can peer into a David’s Books — a tiny bookstore stacked with books filling up shelves, piling up on the floor and stacked to the ceiling.
Although not as organized as any of the chain bookstores, David’s Books has an air of nostalgia. The current owner, Ed Koster, has been running the store since the mid- 1980s and handled the customers at the cashier as he talked about the history of David’s Books.
Koster explained that the bookstore was originally started by David Kozubei in the 1970s. Kozubei was a new-books dealer before he became a used-books dealer and decided to quit and handed the store to Koster because he liked writing more than running a store. Kozubei has done reviews and commentaries on other people’s works, and he is currently working on an anthology of poetry, according to Koster.
The bookstore was originally located on State Street, right above Potbelly Sandwich Works, before it relocated to its current location in 2003. Despite the new location, the store kept its wide variety of selections.
“Most books are used books, but occasionally some academic titles are picked up new,” said Koster.
Koster said there are fewer customers now.
“People don’t seem to like reading as much as they used to, and there’s too much Internet shopping. People just sit at home and browse through the Internet,” Koster said.
As a book lover, Koster said he enjoys reading and running a bookstore. Occasionally, he said he is entertained by eccentric customers who call in to ask about some weird titles.
David’s Books carries a wide selection of books, most of them in recent titles and science fiction. Most of the books are half of the new book’s price. The store also offers a buy three, get one free deal.
A father rushed into Dawn Treader bookstore to find his son with a handful of books, and they both went straight to the cashier. The son passed the father the books, one by one, and the father did not hesitate to pay for any of them. The books at Dawn Treader, like other used bookstores, combine low costs with a diverse selection.
Although Borders is right nearby, Dawn Treader does not seem intimidated by the chain store. The store remains quite busy, full of a wide range of customers.
Corby Gillmore, the current manager of the store, has been managing Dawn Treader for five years. His father, Bill Gillmore, opened the store about 30 years ago. Bill began working in a bindery — a store where books are bound — and eventually accumulated enough books to open a bookstore.
Dawn Treader carries many used, rare and out-of-print books. It also has the first edition of many books, including “On the Road,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Most of their customers are students and collectors.
Corby said he enjoys running the business. When asked about the things that he liked the most about running a bookstore, he replied, “the selection of books I have to myself.”
Afterwords, unlike other privately owned bookstores, does not carry used books. However, like the other stores, it has many out-of-print, rare and children’s books.
“It’s a defensive way to sell a living. I couldn’t sell anything other than books,” said Steve Kelly, the owner of Afterwords. He has been selling books since the 1960s but did not open Afterwords until 1979.
Afterwords offers a wide selection of children’s’ books — the predominant type of book in the store.
“We try to react to kids instead of commercial,” Kelly said.
Many of the store’s customers are families. However, while most book shoppers are usually females, Afterwords is the exception to the rule. Other than children’s books, they carry many of history and non-fiction books, including gardening and anatomy.
Kelly gets books from sales representatives and newspaper reviewers. He also travels once every four to five weeks to buy books at cheap prices.
“I’m offering people fantasies, escape, and entertainment. I try to be part of the overall entertainment,” he said.
West Side Book Shop
West Side Book Shop and Joe Platt, its owner and a Michigan alumni, have been around Ann Arbor for almost 30 years. The store is reminiscent of the small shops in Europe, filled with Jazz music, dimmed yellow lights and out-of-print, old books.
“I’ve always been interested in books and got into book collecting. I went to this bookstore on Fourth Avenue in New York and decided to open a bookstore (in Ann Arbor),” Platt said.
Most of the books are largely about literature and the history of Michigan. Platt also buys collections of different subjects and the first edition of many books, including “The Wapshot Chronicle” and “Dealing or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Block Lost-Bag Blues.”
As he enjoys his time as a book seller, Platt plans the 30-year anniversary for the store in September. He also shared the things he liked about opening a bookstore. “I’m my own boss, and I have my own library. I enjoy being around books. People ask me what it takes to open a bookstore. You have to enjoy handling books.”
Bookstores and Hours
- David’s Books: 516 E. Williams St., (734) 665-8017. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sun. noon to 9 p.m.
- Dawn Treader: 514 E. Liberty St., (734) 995-1008. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sun. noon to 6 p.m.
- Afterwords: 219 S. Main St., (734) 996-2808. Mon.-Wed. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun. noon to 8 p.m.
- West Side Book Shop: 113 W. Liberty (734) 995-1891. Mon. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun. noon to 5 p.m.