A glimpse into the colorful world of Ann Arbor's Hollander's

Bringing Ann Arbor decorative paper and bookbinding classes since 1991

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

Decorative paper hangs on display at the Kerrytown store (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR - If you've been to Hollander's you know it makes an impression. This local gem located in Kerrytown has been inspiring Ann Arbor with its decorative papers, cards and eye-candy displays for 26 years. 

Tom and Cindy Hollander opened their store in 1991. It was on the second floor of Kerrytown Shops and was a mere 180 sq ft. 

“This area just seemed to have that feel. It wasn’t the university; it wasn’t downtown and more refined. It was brick streets and wooden-floored buildings. This fit," Cindy said.

Tom and Cindy Hollander in their Kerrytown studio (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

The business began as a way to sell boxes and paper goods that they frequently sold at art fairs; both had day jobs. But once they understood there was a deep local interest in book art and bookmaking, they threw all their efforts into shaping their nationally known 10,000 sq ft store, still in Kerrytown Shops.

Decorative papers hang in the paper room in the store (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

What put them on the map were their classes. They began with small workshops, and as the consumer demand grew, so did their store and studio space.

Their quick growth surprised even them. In the beginning, “We were just trying to provide a job for ourselves. And all of a sudden it was just, 'Oh we’re a lot busier than we’ve been,'” Tom explained. "We didn't put in a lot of effort to make it happen, we just had a lot of support from the community. We were in the right place at the right time," he said.

(Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

At one point, Hollander's became an Ann Arbor campus for the American Academy of Bookbinding. For five years, they taught students from all over the world who came to learn the art of bookbinding and had 24-hour access to their studio.

At the peak of their workshop years, Tom and Cindy estimate 70-80 classes were offered each year, most ranging from 1-2 day or week-long workshops.

(Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

Tom explains that bookbinding and paper crafts, which he learned from his late mother, Annette Hollander, provide a welcome outlet for creativity in today's busy world. “A lot of people like to come in and use their hands… it’s kind of an escape from all of the technology and (they get to) use old equipment and I think creating something in a day, or two days, is really impressive. (Plus) the teachers are really good,” he said. 

The old equipment he mentions is spread throughout their downstairs studio. An impressive board shear dating back to 1896 is still used in the workshop.

Tom Hollander demonstrates on a 121-year-old board shear (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

Although they discontinued classes years ago, the Hollanders brought back weekend workshops last year. They report a younger audience than before; our suspicion is that their creative social media presence has something to do with it.

An Instagram post from Hollander's account (Photo: Hollander's)

Hollander's sells more than 2,000 decorative papers from all over the world. They are available for purchase on their website, and are used for book covers and art, printmaking, painting; some people put them in a frame to hang on the wall. They also sell bookbinding supplies, art supplies, calendars, greeting cards, gift wrap, and much more.

Various types of paints are sold in the store (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

But what makes the store unique, besides its passionate and dedicated staff, are the mesmerizing displays. Cindy is the mastermind behind them, but is modest when asked to explain how she does it. "It’s all just by the seat of my pants. I don’t have any formal training. I’ve always been interested in colors and shapes and textures," she said. 

One of many decorative paper displays on the main floor (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

Ultimately, they credit the book-loving town of Ann Arbor for their success. “We say if it wasn’t for Kerrytown and the management here, and Ann Arbor just appreciating art and creating things, we wouldn’t have survived,” Cindy said. 

To learn more about their workshops and register, click here.

Visit the Hollander's website here.


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