Owners Mike & Hilary Gustafson
Before opening Literati Bookstore, Hilary Gustafson worked for Simon and Schuster as a sales rep in NYC. Mike Gustafson worked as a freelance writer and video producer. Now, both are Ann Arborites and live with their three cats.
How would you describe your store to someone who has never visited?
We aim to be a warm, welcoming, curated, and passionate bookstore. Our staff cares about our customers, and we care deeply about this community, Ann Arbor. Being downtown, we can be a very lively bookstore, too, with 150+ events throughout the year and a community space for people to gather. Though the store is relatively new, our staff of loyal and dedicated booksellers is one of the most experienced and seasoned staff of any new bookstore in the country. We are in an ideal location for people who want an afternoon or evening out around town, which has always been in Ann Arbor’s culture: Go to dinner, grab a drink, and browse some books.
In a time of bookstore closings, internet book buying, and digital readers, what inspired you to open a bookstore?
We have always loved going to bookstores, browsing, picking out new books, worlds, and ideas. With the online shopping experience, it’s harder to surprise yourself and discover something unexpected. We aim to open a warm and welcoming space for browsers to discover the unexpected, to find new books and new authors, to discuss their favorite books with friends and family, as well as to be a place that supports and hosts author events, book clubs, and community gatherings.
How do you think Literati contributes to building community?
We regularly host book clubs, readings, events, story times, and fun, free book trivia nights throughout the year. We also give back to a number of nonprofits and charities in the area, including BINC, 826michigan, and SafeHouse Center. We’re proud to collaborate with area businesses and offer Ann Arbor unique experiences through that collaboration. We’re also proud to create jobs for booksellers, pay state and local taxes, and be actively engaged with the community we love.
What has been your favorite part of owning and/or working in a bookstore?
We love meeting our customers, hearing from them what they’re reading, what books they enjoy, and what authors they’re excited about. Meeting so many passionate book lovers in this community has been wonderful.
What has been your greatest challenge running a bookstore?
Just making things operate smoothly. Our first year, we had to quickly expand internally and add staffing and improve logistics. Our incredible staff has helped us in so many ways. When we first opened, we had around 7 employees; now we’re up to 17. Everyone on staff knows the bookstore is changing almost every week, which is challenging, but also very exciting.
What role do you think books and bookstores play in the culture of Ann Arbor?
Ann Arbor is one of the most educated cities in America. Ann Arbor also, at one point, had the highest amount of bookstores per capita of any city in the US. With careful curation and providing a physical space for people to browse a curated book selection, bookstores can be part of this town’s culture of growth and learning. Ann Arbor is a very engaged city – we all deeply care about this community – and bookstores, as community spaces, can nurture that environment.