Bringing a vision into reality isn’t easy. Just ask Susan Murphy, owner of Detroit’s newest bookstore, Pages Bookshop, located in the Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood of Detroit’s northwest side. Opened in 2015, Murphy endured many setbacks before her vision of doing community outreach through the written word finally took root.
With degrees in IT and finance, Susan’s career was anchored in the corporate world for almost two decades, until she and her husband moved to Chicago, where she took a job teaching IT and finance at a community college. It was there that she began to think about the relationship between reading and writing. “I didn’t teach any classes that required a lot of writing; however, students had to write their answers and the writing I saw really lacked the basics. It was disheartening and got me thinking about what would make people better writers.” Susan’s solution? Get a masters of library and information science degree from Wayne State University and get a job at the public library. But it wasn’t long before she realized her plan wasn’t the right path. “I went back to school in 2008, and I knew the first semester I wasn’t getting a job in the library because of the big financial downturns and lack of funding.”
After receiving her master’s degree in 2010, Susan started a company doing market research for small businesses. But she hadn’t given up on her vision. In fact, she had another idea. “I thought, ‘I could do it a much more expensive way. I could do it with a bookstore.’” In 2013 she applied for and received a grant to open a bookstore. But the building fell through and she lost the grant. After three more attempts at securing a location fell through, Susan was ready to give up. Until she got a call from Amanda Brewington, owner of Always Brewing Coffee Company. “I put something online and Amanda called me and said, ‘If you want to set up in a corner of my store you are welcome to do so and stay as long as you want.’” By then Susan was familiar with pop-ups, as she had spent six months selling books at a pop-up bookstore on weekends at the Rust Belt Market in Ferndale. Susan set up two bookcases full of classics and some best-selling fiction she enjoyed and got to know the customers at Always Brewing. “I got to talk to her customers and the people who lived in the neighborhood because they really supported her. I got to see what they were reading and discovered they read stuff that I read, which was really in my comfort zone and helped me learn what to order. It wasn’t a big business, but it made me think, this is the neighborhood.”
Susan had a pop-up at Always Brewing for three months, until finally opening her bookstore, Pages Bookshop, in early 2015. With 5,000 titles and still growing, Pages Bookshop has a strong literary fiction presence, as well as books for children and middle grade readers. History is also well represented, though there are plenty of other subjects to draw the interest of most readers. “It’s a comfortable, quiet, safe space to just come and browse. You can find new authors and new titles by authors you may know. It’s got an eclectic mix of books so likely you’ll find something you didn’t even know about but now you need.”
Although her journey was a long one, it seems that Susan has finally realized her vision of community outreach through books. She loves connecting with her customers and feels the impact her store has on its community is an important one. “It’s a place for people to interact with books. When people come to events they get to meet the authors. It’s such a different experience reading a book if you’ve met the author. And we have book clubs, which are about interaction as well. I also do cultural events and neighborhood-type events in the store. I think it’s a place that’s like an anchor in the neighborhood.”
Be sure to make Pages Bookshop a stop on your next trip to Detroit, or plan a special trip. It will be well worth it! Pages Bookshop is located at 19560 Grand River Ave., in Detroit.