The outside of Schuler Books in Okemos, Michigan is deceiving. When you pull up to a large mall in the middle of a tree-lined neighborhood, you wonder if you’re in the right place. Surely a locally-owned, long-loved bookstore would be the center of a quaint downtown area, right? Well, no one told Schuler, and they don’t mind one bit. Walking into the bookstore is the exact opposite of walking into a mall. There is stained wood everywhere, and books on every available surface. The environment is quiet, calm, and inviting. Had you wandered in from the crowds and cacophony of the busy mall, you’d think you had entered a little slice of quiet paradise. Even being there for a large author event, as my fiance and I were, the bookstore wasn’t rushed, and no one hurried you along or forced you to line up.
The first Schuler Books opened up in 1982 in Grand Rapids, with Bill and Cecile Fehsenfeld at the forefront. Their love of books and giving back to the community translated well into a brick and mortar store, and they blossomed by selling books and newspapers and even had an espresso cart offering their new patrons coffee while they browsed. That cart would later become the Chapbook Cafe that remains in both current locations of the store. Their vision grew, and they expanded, eventually becoming Schuler Books and Music. They even have a print-on-demand service for self-publishers and people who love out-of-print titles: the Espresso Book Machine! There you can get professional-quality books right when you want them, whether its a title you haven’t seen on shelves in years or your own work.
Schuler was one of the first independent bookstores in the US to have one, and it’s still going strong! Schuler has had its ups and downs, opening and subsequently closing several stores throughout Southern Michigan, but they are doing fine with one location in Grand Rapids, one in East Lansing, and through their ownership of Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor. Visiting the one in East Lansing/Okemos, you get the feeling that this is still a store very much owned and operated by one couple. Schuler has all the charm of a small-town bookstore, and you quickly forget that you parked a mile away in a mall parking lot. The store was busier than normal, what with author Jim Butcher giving a talk that day, but it never felt crowded or cramped. The staff was very kind, and even when they had to wrangle a bunch of us book fans, they were courteous and happy to assist. I knew that under a different circumstance, I could walk up to anyone and have a chat about books for a good while.
I have yet to visit Schuler Books’ other location in Grand Rapids, but after such a pleasant experience in Okemos, I can’t wait to venture to the other location and see just how lovely that one is as well. If you find yourself in East Lansing looking for some good reads, head on over to the Meridian Mall, and say hi to the employees and books at Schuler!
The Schuler Books Okemos location is located at 1982 Grand River Ave., Okemos, MI 48864. For more information on Schuler Books, visit their website at schulerbooks.com.