Book lovers familiar with Kalamazoo may already be aware of Bookbug, the phenomenal children’s bookstore that opened in Oakwood Plaza in 2008. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and extremely helpful when you need to buy last minute gifts for your young nephews who have divergent tastes. But did you know Bookbug has a sibling store? Also located in Oakwood Plaza and very close to Bookbug, This Is A Bookstore opened in October of 2017.
When I was growing up in the 90s in nearby Portage, Michigan, my local independent bookstore was John W. Rollins Bookseller (more often known as simply John Rollins), which was started by a former history professor and Ann Arbor Borders bookseller who wanted to bring a Borders-like bookstore to the Kalamazoo area in 1982. I remember visiting with my father, and exploring the maze of shelves and seeking out the store cats. I was devastated when John Rollins closed “for renovation” and never reopened, seemingly driven out by the newly opened Barnes and Noble in the next plaza over. If I wanted to continue shopping at a local indie bookstore, I would have to drive into Kalamazoo and visit Kazoo books (opened in 1988), but far more often, I made the shift to Waldenbooks in the mall and Barnes and Noble.
If This Is A Bookstore had been open while I was a student at Western Michigan University, I would have set up camp and lived there. Books everywhere! And cozy reading nooks. And book-related jewelry, buttons, and bags. There is also the Table of Contents cafe with the usual delicious coffee, tea, and pastries, but also wine and beer! And not only does This Is A Bookstore host author and book events, every Wednesday is trivia night, making this store a true community hub with diverse offerings.
I couldn’t help noticing while I perused the thoughtfully curated tables and shelves that it is also an openly LGBT-friendly shop, a haven that I could have desperately used in college, and I am beyond delighted to see today. Kalamazoo was not often kind to us in the early aughts, and while it isn’t perfect today, things have obviously gotten better.
I had some lovely conversations about my book purchases (another gift for my niece and one for myself) with the amiable staff, and purchased a beverage and croissant from Table of Contents. My mother was with me, and she was equally delighted, having had no idea the store was there. She was also excited by the beer, wine, and trivia, and wondered if she might persuade her partner to join her one night to check it all out. We were sure to tell our local friends and family to visit both Bookbug and This Is A Bookstore, and I was so certain I will be back, that I joined their frequent buyer club.
Kalamazoo is less than a two hours drive from Ann Arbor, and Oakwood Plaza is under two miles straight up Oakland Drive from I-94, so very easy to get to. And while you’re in the area, also stop by Kazoo Books located around the corner and a half mile down Parkview. You can also head downtown to the Michigan News Agency. This is a road trip, after all.
This is a Bookstore is located at 3019 Oakland Dr., in Kalamazoo. Visit them online at https://www.bookbugkalamazoo.com/