Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Where the Cool Kids Shop

Last week I wrote about the sad state of Barnes & Noble but I’ve always been partial to the other chain.

The first Borders store opened in Ann Arbor in 1971. It’s an unobtrusive two-storey building with Borders Books & Music stamped on its brick façade. In college, I’d sit in the store, touch the book jackets, flip through the new releases and try to stick to the back of the store. I didn’t want to be seen there.

Borders wasn’t where the English majors were supposed to go. The independent bookstore—Shaman Drum―was where the real literary junkies hung out. The store held book readings; the staff was tattooed and punctured; they showcased high quality literary magazines in the store windows. It was a pretty cool place, I’d admit. And I spent some money there on overpriced textbooks. But the store didn’t give me that breezy, everyman feel of Borders.

To be clear, the Borders in Ann Arbor didn’t look like some corporate chain store―it wasn’t very big or surrounded by a concrete sea of parking lot. But when I wanted to take a break from dusty academic life, I went to Borders to look at what shiny things the rest of the country was buying and check out which books were marked down with a “20 percent off” sticker. I wanted to feel like a regular person out shopping, not an undergrad sleeping on the top bunk, trying to catch up on last week’s reading of Moll Flanders.

Shaman Drum just didn’t give me the comfort I wanted. Looks like I should have browsed at Borders but bought at the hip independent store. Shaman Drum went out of business last summer after almost thirty years and I hear a Five Guys Burgers and Fries is opening in its place.

I’ve moved beyond ramen noodles and library stacks, and that cool little independent store is looking pretty good about now.

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