I am hating myself for beginning it like this, but I wanted to contain the romance of what I am about to share. I am reminded of the movie Saajan and Madhuri Dixit in a small country bookshop. A walk through the downtown here in Ann Arbor is sometimes like that. A little town with tons of books and literary agenda. As a young girl in school, I’d often romanticize the bookshop and coffee/ tea business and share it with others. Although, it was always my retirement plan. I walked into Aunt Agatha’s mystery bookshop in Ann Arbor quite matter of factly wanting a small 20 minute appointment to talk with them. They didn’t need German appointments, they just wanted me to come by 🙂
Entering Aunt Agatha’s World
After all these years, it’s hard to determine what sort of a reader I personally am. I did start like most do on Enid Blyton and a little of Hardy Boys but I very swiftly moved to Mill on the Floss and older English literature to hardly enjoy the mystery genre much. Over a period of time, I’ve moved through a lot of new things and don’t necessarily ascribe to a single type. But in general I like drama and a slice of life sort of a narrative much more. But it was impossible to ignore a bookstore like Aunt Agatha’s and not want to walk in, no matter what I was reading.
A husband-wife duo both mystery aficionados started Aunt Agatha’s Mystery bookstore in Ann Arbor.
I always wanted to do this in the end, but to have a bookstore as a career, how did you guys start?
We lived in Minneapolis before and we would constantly go to this Uncle Edgar’s bookshop and we used to spend all our time there. So, when we decided to come to Michigan- our families are from here, we knew it would be Ann Arbor. And we both loved Agatha Christie, so that’s how it began. He (the husband) used to work for Borders for a bit before we started this up. It has been twenty years.
Oh you also have used books?
Oh it wouldn’t be here, if we didn’t have the used books. That really does help. Some of our readers want to share the same books they grew up reading with their children. And some of those titles have run out of prints. Or they can’t find them anywhere else.
The books were falling all over and being arranged and re-arranged, for which they needlessly apologized. It was like being in a magic store. But they were both quick to share their piece of caution to make it real…
These days you’ve gotta push people to come to the store. What’s going to attract them to come here rather than buying something off Amazon. You need events. Oh, I (the wife) was organizing the Kerrytown bookfest. I got all the authors together…you can come for the book readings each month.
Starting a book store is a lot of financial obligations. When Amazon came in all the big stores were affected. But we’re quite sure the smaller stores can still stay. Ann Arbor has 6 or 7 bookstores in the downtown.
Oh but real books are so much more, I say. I share how my husband and are both real book owners and talk about our tall bookshelf at home. You can’t keep a kindle in the living room, I argue.
Oh yeah, I suppose they can be great piece of art, he says on reflection
I think about it a moment, but that’s not really what I mean, and decide perhaps they’re not used to it. Or maybe I sound a bit pretentious appearing young and still liking paper books. I continue, oh but, it’s so nice to be able to share books. I grew up reading the Famous Five and Five Findouters, I’d love to pass them on to someone younger too. But I guess, we’ll run into issues, my husband and I, if we had to select books, we both read, but vastly differently, I say.
We didn’t have that problem. We both like mysteries. Both our kids like mysteries….Well my daughter is studying to be a librarian, so, well, still books. And our son is still figuring out what to do…
Aunt Agatha’s Promise Beyond Books
Aunt Agatha’s mystery bookstore is exactly what it promises to be. A walk into your childhood. I was strictly reading from libraries as a kid and not necessarily buying books (which I did start much later) but the smell of books, the yellow pages neatly folded, reminded me of infinite times on the couch where I fantasized a life far far away. I could jump into a book at volition. I didn’t care about whether you make money when you live in books and go back in time to appear in the 15th century somewhere. Or solve a mystery with Fatty, Bets and Buster. And then, I grew up.
I remembered the long Sunday market lanes of Daryaganj where you could be lucky finding an entire series of Shakespeare, or the Feluda series, sometimes sold by book kilos. Some mere paper dumps donated by Western kids landing up in India, going from one Kabadi walah to another. I’d neatly buy and store them, till mom complained of how much junk I was collecting at home.
It’s a special place that takes you back. Especially, if you wanted to get back at Mr. Goon.
p.s. this is why Ann Arbor agrees with me despite it all.