New owners take on a beloved bookstore on Ann Arbor's North Side

For 15 years, Ann Arbor resident Truly Render says she and her husband, local author Shaun Manning, "held a little gem in [their] hearts" — a dream of opening a bookstore.

"He comes from a background in publishing, and I come from a background in arts and culture marketing," Render says. "We thought, 'Boy, with our powers combined, we could really have one heck of a little bookshop.'"

When their favorite neighborhood bookstore, Bookbound (1729 Plymouth Rd. in Ann Arbor), announced in May that it would be closing, the couple wondered if their fantasy might have legs. 

With a lot of research and number-crunching, they realized they could buy the store. Things took off quickly from there. Their new store, Booksweet, will open with a "soft launch" on Aug. 6, and a community open house to follow on Aug. 12.

"We didn't just want to be another bookstore in the space. We wanted to keep the momentum going and serve the North Side community," Manning says of his and his family's neighborhood.

While the new owners plan to keep many Bookbound traditions alive — like a carefully curated list of titles, and custom book recommendations — they're looking forward to adding their own touches, like expanding the store's selection of young adult and middle-grade graphic novels. 

"I know from my industry experience that's a huge growth area," Manning says. "I also know, on a personal level, having an almost-12-year-old, that kids love that [genre], and I want kids in the shop."

"I look forward to curating events that are really reflective of our community," Render says. "What do we like? What are we into? And how is that different from New York Times bestsellers, or what you might see in an airport bookshop?"

They plan to host events with community partners, and work with local artists like Lauren McHale, who will paint the first of an ongoing series of window murals at the shop. With every measure the duo takes to realize their dream, Render says they aim to make the space "welcoming and affirming to all."

Jeanne Hodesh is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor, where she covers small business, food, and culture. She holds an MFA from Hunter College. Her essays and articles have appeared in Lenny Letter, The Hairpin, and Time Out New York, among other publications.

Photos courtesy of Booksweet.
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