Centicore Bookstores

Intellectualism and Uninhibited Fun in the Radical 1970’s
by Karen Alvarez

‘The unassuming storefronts on Maynard near Nickel’s Arcade were once the site of cheeky (pun intended) exhibitionism and celebrity book signings. Centicore Bookstores occupied a space there for 17 years in the 1960s and 1970s. During a time when Ann Arbor gained its reputation as a “book town” and a leading college town for radical thinking and new social movements, Centicore was the go-to bookstore for the intellectual crowd. Before Borders, Centicore was beloved as an “Unpretentious Store for the Scholarly Bookbuyer.”
Occupying two separate locations, Centicore bought and sold used books at its smaller store at 1229 S. University and sold new works at the main store on Maynard. Its inventory expanded from scholarly subjects such as history and sociology to include poetry, fiction, arts and crafts, gardening, and more.   The store’s owners, Jim and Adrienne Rudolph, were kite enthusiasts and included kites among the non-book inventory of posters, art frames, and other items. Among the renowned authors who appeared at the store were Erica Jong, Allen Ginsberg, Germaine Greer, and Anais Nin.
Arguably the most famous visitor to Centicore, Andy Warhol, signed copies of his book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) in front of the Maynard store in September 1975. Hundreds of people crowded and jostled to catch a glimpse of the slight figure with a shock of platinum hair. Seven years since his nearly fatal shooting by a mentally unstable former fan, Warhol signed autographs for three hours outside of the store, hardly uttering a word as the throng shouted to him and peppered him with questions and requests. The fans got creative with the items they brought to be autographed: not just books or posters, but also actual cans of Campbell’s soup, and food wrappers from a McDonald’s that stood across the street. 
Centicore was not always a serious place where intellectuals quietly perused stacks of books or had politically charged discussions, however. In 1974 it joined in one of the decade’s more lighthearted fads: streaking. That year saw a wave of mass streaking sweep across college campuses around the United States. Long before Ann Arbor’s infamous Naked Run tradition, several dozen young men and women streaked across the Diag through thousands of cheering spectators in March 1974. Days later, Centicore advertised its own “streak-in” in the form of a one-hour flash sale (again, pun intended) for anyone who streaked through the bookstore. About 50 people took up the challenge in front of a crowd a few hundred strong.
Despite Centicore Bookstores’ successes and loyal following, they closed in 1979. The Rudolphs segued into careers as international art dealers. The storefronts at 1229 S. University and 336 Maynard changed hands over the years, and, as happened to many of Ann Arbor’s independent bookstores, book lovers reminisce about the hours they spent among the books.

Andy Warhol giving autographs in front of Centicore on Maynard. Credit: The Michigan Daily, September 14, 1975

Centicore “streak sale” ad. Credit: Ann Arbor News, March 20, 1974, aadl.org

Anais Nin signs books at Centicore Bookstore as part of her 70th birthday party, February 28, 1973.  Later that evening she appeared at Rackham Auditorium as part of a lecture series sponsored by the Center for the Continuing Education of Women. Credit: The Ann Arbor News, February 28, 1973, aadl.org