ANN ARBOR – A new community bookstore will be opening in the beginning of August in the former Bookbound Bookstore space on the city’s northside.
Booksweet, owned by Shaun Manning and Truly Render, is a passion project the couple has been dreaming about for over a decade.
“Shaun and I have been talking about this for about 15 years,” said Render. “We are lovers of books, avid readers, and reading and writing has always been a very important part of our lives.”
Render said she felt gutted when Bookbound owners Peter and Megan Blackshear announced they were closing their beloved local shop.
“We were actually frequent customers of Bookbound,” she said. “This summer, when we saw that they were closing and they were not super impacted by pandemic realities ... I said to Shaun: ‘What if we bought it?’ We reached out to Peter and Megan and they’ve been incredibly generous throughout the process.”
Manning and Render will be purchasing Bookbound’s inventory and are already working on bringing more inventory in. Part of the new orders will be an expanded middle grade and YA section.
“We have a middle school child so we really want to make sure our graphic novel section is robust,” said Render.
Manning has enjoyed a long career in publishing and is also an author.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work with books in some capacity for most of my adult life,” he said.
This includes working in the publishing department of the Art Institute of Chicago and more recently for the University of Michigan Press. He has published several graphic novels and short comics, and was also a book reviewer for Publisher’s Weekly.
Render, who works in arts and culture marketing, said her relationship with books is best described as a love affair.
“For me, it’s a form of escape,” she said. “It’s really nice to be someone else once in a while and a book lets you do that. It’s a way to explore perspectives that are different from your lived experience.”
They aim to curate titles that speak to the community’s interests and to create a welcoming and affirming environment to all who walk through their doors.
“We’re small, we’re personal and we live on the north side so you’re not just our customers, you’re our neighbors,” said Render. “We really do live that and we feel that.”
In keeping with the times, Render and Manning said they are putting just as much focus on the online shopping experience as they are on the in-store experience.
“We are not just a brick and mortar shop,” said Render. “We want that customer experience to be really great online. Starting a business in mid-pandemic realities in an interesting place to be. And I think it has shifted a lot of customer behavior, personal behavior and business needs and planning.”
As for COVID safety protocols, Render said they will be following the latest state and local guidelines.
“We will always be masked in the shop and our staff will always be masked in the shop,” said Render. “Largely, that’s because we come home to someone who doesn’t have access to vaccinations yet. We encourage folks who are in similar situations to wear a mask.
“I want to make sure that people make the choices they need to to keep their bodies safe and masks are not mandated but they are celebrated and you’ll always see us in them. If you want to see what our faces, you can check our website.”
Booksweet will have a soft opening on Aug. 6 and a community open house on Aug. 12 from 5-8 p.m.
Hours listed on the shop’s website are as follows:
- Sunday-Wednesday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
- Thursday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
For more information, visit www.shopbooksweet.com.