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Ann Arbor’s Dawn Treader Book Shop uses GoFundMe to keep 45-year-old store afloat

Downtown used book shop in “preservation mode”

Dawn Treader Book Shop has been operating for over 40 years in Ann Arbor.
Dawn Treader Book Shop has been operating for over 40 years in Ann Arbor. (Africa Schaumann)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – One of Ann Arbor’s older used and rare book shops, Dawn Treader Book Shop, has turned to the community for help through a GoFundMe campaign.

Started on April 15 by Dawn Treader Manager Africa Schaumann, the campaign was created to keep the store afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

The shop has been dramatically impacted by the lack of foot traffic in the downtown area due to the statewide “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“My favorite things that customers do when they walk in,“ Schaumann said over the phone,” they take two steps in from the door and they just take a big whiff. They take a deep breath and they go ‘ahh, it smells like books.’ ”

Schaumann misses seeing customers come in and setting books out on display only to have them bought a few minutes later. But the store is now in what she calls “preservation mode” -- it’s just trying to stay open.

“Our daily operations just aren’t where they need to be for us to continue day-to-day. So, with the GoFundMe, I’m thinking preservation. I’m thinking ‘When we come out of this, whenever that is, we still want to be here.”

Schaumann said the decades-old book shop has cultivated an experience for its customers where they can browse for hours without any expectations to buy and she wants to be able to offer in the future.

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Sitting in the Dawn Treader’s case room, a room containing over 2,000 rare and antiquarian books, Schaumann said the shop is like a Tardis [the iconic time machine from British TV series Doctor Who] -- it’s bigger on the inside. However, Schaumann has heard customers refer to it as a “treasure hunt,” ”another world” or a “fairyland.”

“One of the best things about the GoFundMe has been not just seeing the money roll in, but seeing the notes people leave with their donations,” Schaumann said. Community members, and even Dawn Treader fans who have moved away from Ann Arbor, have left paragraphs about their memories of the bookshop on its funding page.

“And I just feel passionately that I want to continue giving people those memories and those meaningful moments while they’re in the store.”

For Schaumann, the outpouring of support for Dawn Treader has carried just as much meaning as the donations. Schaumann said that while some community members cannot contribute to the campaign, their notes and memories are just as appreciated.

The sarcophagus inside of Dawn Treader Book Shop in downtown Ann Arbor. (Africa Schaumann)

“It’s not just a home for me,” Schaumann said. The book store also represents a welcoming and warm space for community members. Whether customers to browse the myriad of shelves jam-packed with used books, or sit down to read for a few hours, the used book shop has a comforting quality.

“Because if there is anywhere in the world that people should feel safe, it’s the local used book store,” Schaumann said.

Visit the Dawn Treader Book Shop GoFundMe campaign here.

In addition to online donations, community members can also place for books by emailing dawntreaderbooks@gmail.com. Payment is taken over the phone after the store is able to find the books.

Due to current social distancing measures, only two staff members are working to fulfill orders but Schaumann said the store tries to respond to inquiries as fast as possible.

Dawn Treader is able to ship books but to help customers cut down on their costs, the book shop also offers pick-up from its downtown shop.

Gift cards are available for those who want to browse for their own books in the future. Buy giftcards here.

Schaumann said that those who cannot donate or buy books are encouraged to tell other community members about the store’s fight to stay open, which is just as appreciated.

Supporting and preserving the Dawn Treader may also help the other used book stores in Ann Arbor, according to Schaumann. She said the used book stores around Ann Arbor are a symbiotic community, much like the small business community, and that helping one may mean helping another.

Visit the Dawn Treader virtually through its Facebook page or website.

Dawn Treader Book Shop is at 514 E. Liberty Street.

The used book store often has floor-to-ceiling shelves full of used books. (Africa Schaumann)

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.