Wahr's Bookstore - Ann Arbor's Longest Lasting Bookshop
The busy years of the seventies saw a renaissance in bookshops in Ann Arbor, with such well-known names as Borders, West Side Books, Dawn Treader, and the Little Professor shops appearing. But the early part of the decade also saw the end of a very long lived bookshop, Wahr's, which had been an Ann Arbor landmark bookseller and publisher for almost a hundred years.
Wahr's was founded in January of 1887, when George Wahr bought out two partners in an earlier venture, called George Osius & Co., at 4 North Main. From the beginning it provided books both for the university and the town, but wallpaper was also a major part of the shop. Christmas time and spring were the big sales periods for wallpaper, while the books sold year round, with peaks at Christmas and the beginning of university terms. Pens and stationary were also staples, and for a time Wahr's was also a major seller of sporting goods. .
In 1892, Wahr's opened a shop on South State Street at 310 (the current building houses Get Your Game On and SEE), and probably moved to 20 South State by 1895, based on an ad in THE OMEGA from Ann Arbor High School. Wahr's then moved to its lasting location at 316 South State in 1903. In the 1930s it also had an Old and Rare shop at 306 S. State, but selling used and rare had been a regular, though small, part of the company for much of its life.
Wahr's was also active in publishing, starting in the 1890s. The firm focused on textbooks, but also included novels, histories, and children's books. Over 250 different titles were eventually done, along with calendars showing university buildings. A scarce calendar from 1903 was made in the shape of a football.
Wahr's remained the flagship store of the city, surviving the depression and continuing to sell stationary, textbooks and sports equipment. It eventually shut down the original Main Street location, and focused on more university sales, and still published the odd book as well.
By the early seventies it was over. George Wahr Sallade, the grandson of the original George, sold the stock to Tom and Louis Borders in 1975, and closed the eighty-eight year old business, At one point the Borders brothers had a used and rare bookshop there called Charing Cross Books at the old Wahr's location, though it was ran by other people while they concentrated on their new bookshop across the street at 303 South State. Wahr's is still fondly remembered by a number of Ann Arbor residents, and the occasional bookmark, bag, letterhead, or even box can turn up at resale shops or in estate sales.
Owner, Motte & Bailey Booksellers