Where Giants Rang Up Sales
by Karen Alvarez
Slater seems to be stealing the business from the other two partly by enterprise and partly by book knowledge. He has improved the looks of his store a lot. He gets hold of the professors by giving them all 20% discount. They return the favor by keeping him ahead of their assignments for classes. I like him pretty well.
Myron retired in 1929 and handed the store to his young nephew and assistant, Marvin J. Slater. Marvin immediately set out to grow the business by buying out competitor Charles Graham, expanding the shop’s floor space, and incorporating the business with a new board of directors. Tragically, Marvin died just one year later after a short illness, leaving behind his 25-year-old wife, Florence, and their baby daughter.
Football star and Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon worked at Slater’s during college in the late 1930s. He reminisced about those days in his memoir Pilots Also Pray:
One of the landmarks of Ann Arbor is a college bookstore run by Florence Slater. To the athletes at the University Mrs. Slater is a guiding spirit throughout their years at school. Her friendship and encouragement were among the main reasons I stuck it out when I was just about ready to throw in the towel.
At the beginning of every term, Slater’s Bookstore is always jammed with students getting set with textbooks for the semester’s work. The boys behind the counters handing out those heavy tomes are mainly boys from the different teams. It was always a strange sight to walk into Slater’s during or shortly after registration and see a bunch of clerks whose towering size made them look like men from Mars. Just picture one of those giants handing down, all the way down to some pint-sized coed, something or other like the History of Ancient Greece or an anthology of modern French poetry! You could have thought the Michigan teams were the most literary teams in the world. Anyway, Slater’s became the hangout of our team.
Slater’s remained a favorite of students and townspeople alike over the next thirty years. The store donated trophies and other prizes for inter-fraternity sports championships. Longtime store manager Russell O’Brien led an alumni baseball team called Slater’s Sluggers. Inside at 336 S. State, the travel and children’s books sections were expanded and heavily promoted during the holiday shopping seasons.
Slater’s eventually closed in 1972 after 56 years in business. At the time it was Ann Arbor’s second oldest bookstore after Wahr’s, which closed that same year. Florence Slater remained in Ann Arbor for the rest of her life, staying active in the community and keeping in touch with old football friends.