Booksweet

Located near U-M’s north campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Booksweet is a cozy community spot to browse, chat about books, and co-create positive change. We’re so excited to meet you – and help you discover your next great read.

 

 

Store Information

Specialty:
General bookstore featuring new books

Address:
1729 Plymouth Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48105

Contact:
734-929-4112

COVID-19 Policy:
Masks encouraged

Year Opened:
2021

Website:
shopbooksweet.com

Hours:
Sunday-Wednesday: 10 am to 6 pm
Thursday-Saturday: 10 am to 8 pm

Accessibility:
Wheelchair accessible
Parking spaces for the disabled nearby
Wheelchair-accessible restroom

Indie Interview

featuring Truly Render and Shaun Manning of Booksweet

Truly + Shaun: Short answer: we love books and we love our community. Long “why this, why now” answer: buckle up. 

We celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary this year. From the very beginning of our relationship, whenever we let our imaginations run wild about possibilities for the future, we saw ourselves owning a bookshop focused on community-building through stories. 

While we continued to sock money away for the future, our careers throughout our 20s and 30s took us in some really fulfilling and interesting directions. I worked in arts and culture marketing; Shaun worked in publishing.

We have a “genesis story” for the shop, but every genesis story has a catalyst. In many ways, the pandemic was ours.

The pandemic continues to be an invitation for all of us to consider our “one life to live.” In the early days of the pandemic, when we had to confront our mortality every time we head out to the grocery store, it made us wonder: how do we want to live our lives? How can we better live our values? 

We’ve always been believers and practitioners of the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” The many ways the pandemic stripped families of their villages had devastating consequences – and our family was no exception. Old models of work just weren’t working for our family. Furthermore, they’d become undesirable. We wanted to bring about the reality we’d always imagined. The time for the shop was now.

Fortunately, we had the privilege, vision, savings – and importantly: the opportunity – to create a new reality for ourselves through the shop. Our shop was starting to take off right around the time vaccinations were becoming widely available for all. The world was beginning to open up again. With luck (and science!) on our side, we moved quickly and with clear vision and intent when the Blackshear’s were looking to sell Bookbound.

While business ownership is demanding, the collaborative structure and the opportunities to “live our values” that the shop provides have made huge differences in our lives, in our family life, and (we hope!) in the lives of those in the community. We feel optimistic about the future and the next chapter we’ll co-author with Booksweet readers.

Shaun: I love talking with folks about what they’re reading, or what they’re excited about. It’s really cool to be able to connect about something you both enjoyed, or to learn about books you might not be familiar with. 

 

Truly: So far, my favorite part of running a bookshop so far has been our partnerships. It’s been such a joy to connect with authors, artists, community organizations, and nonprofits to spark story-inspired change in our community. Washtenaw County is full of amazing scholars, authors, creators, and hungry readers. So far, we’ve collaborated with Black Men Read, UMS, RISE, Leslie Science and Nature Center, as well as local artists and authors. New partnerships are forming all the time. It’s been a joy to work with our neighbors in this way, collaborating to bring readers into great stories and create change in new and exciting ways.

Shaun: I’ve been really focused on putting together a selection that serves the needs and interests of our community, and I think the challenge there is trying to make sure you have both the books that folks are looking for as well as titles they might not have known about. Especially for backlist – books that are not new releases – that can be challenging because there is so much. Recognizing that we can’t stock literally everything, though, we’re very happy to take special orders, which also helps us decide what to put on our shelves moving forward. 

 

Truly: An expected challenge, but a challenge nonetheless: the pandemic. While our courtyard allows for great outdoor events in the warmer months, allowing us to create our own foot traffic, this winter has been tough. There are quite a few vacancies in the Courtyard Shops presently – and the pandemic has necessitated “carryout only” for many of our neighbors. In terms of virtual events, Zoom fatigue is real – and there are so many great offerings out there already. I think we’ve done a good job of creating thoughtful, pandemic responsive in-person events and strategic virtual partnerships, but it has still required a lot of flexibility and an unwavering commitment to health and safety. Our community has risen up to support us through it all, though. The future is bright – and the present is a good place to be.

Truly: We don’t just work on the northside: we live here too. We don’t see our readers as “customers.” You are our neighbors. We want to serve your authentic interests and pursuits in an affirming, welcoming, “at home” kind of way. 

We live in an incredible town. Our neighbors read in ways that are both broad and deep: they love literary fiction, thrillers, poetry, sci-fi, non-fiction reads (math and science are super popular areas of interest), and BookTok reads. A Shakespeare adaptation by local author Mya Gosling, Stick Figure MacBeth, is one of our top sellers – our readers are smart, curious, and eager. Ultimately: we want people to feel great about their preferences. Picking out a “just for you” book can be an empowering experience, a true gift to yourself. There’s magic there and we really want to honor that. 

Also, like our neighbors across Washtenaw County, Booksweet is interested in creating positive, relevant social change. Through partnerships, events, and collaborations, we strive to create opportunities for our readers to connect with great stories, gain new insights and knowledge, and bring that knowledge out into the world. 

Finally, I’ll say this because I know Shaun is too modest to do so for himself: a bookshop co-owned by an author offers a distinct perspective. Shaun brings great business knowledge from publishing to our shop, but he also brings a host of scholarly and creative knowledge to the work from his writerly life. As an author, Shaun eagerly reads everything from Garbage Pail Kids comics to Chaucer to bring new work to life. He has first-hand knowledge of the ways reading can inform and support creative people, scholars, and thinkers of all kinds. We live in a county with six colleges and universities – that’s six communities of individuals committed to learning and generating new knowledge. An author-led bookshop has a lot to offer these readers. We get them. We are them.

Shaun: I think we’re really invested in meeting people where they are, in a number of different ways. One example is the thought and care we put into both our physical space and online retail. We want Booksweet to be a cozy, welcoming environment – somewhere you want to visit, somewhere kids, too, are excited to come and look around. But with the ongoing pandemic, we also recognize that folks may sometimes prefer or need to shop from home. And, of course, you can see what we have in store through our website, if you want to check up on a particular book before stopping by. We want to make your experience enjoyable however you decide to shop on a given day.

I’d say being parents of a 7th grader also gives us a strong perspective on what kids and teens want to read. Raymond’s recent and current reading interests have helped us shape the middle grade and young adult sections, and they have some fantastic recommendations for graphic novels. We did have one young reader bouncing around the kids’ section who literally said, “it’s like you know what kids want!” 

Finally, Truly mentioned how we’re your neighbors. I also would say that, as a part of this, our investment in the community does not start or stop with the shop. I regularly serve as an election worker, Truly works with Citizens for Racial Equity Washtenaw to create storytelling around racial disparities in the criminal justice system in Washtenaw County, we’ve served as scout leaders and “cookie dads” – we want to contribute to the health and vibrancy of our community. We want Booksweet to be a vehicle for that.

Truly: Located near U-M’s north campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Booksweet is a cozy community spot to browse, chat about books, and co-create positive change. We’re so excited to meet you – and help you discover your next great read.