Store owner comes out of retirement to open bookstore in downtown Battle Creek

The next chapter of Jim Donahue’s life involves a bookstore and a desire to help the city he has called home for more than 25 years.

On May 1 Donahue opened Battle Creek Books at 51 West Michigan Avenue. The 2,000-square-foot shop is filled with books, magazines, and items such as greeting cards and posters which are displayed on light wooden shelves.

"I’m originally from Brooklyn, New York and I have always liked books," Donahue says. "I wanted to do something to help Battle Creek and its downtown and not compete with other businesses in any way. I’m not a musician so I couldn’t open a jazz store."

After practicing medicine for 33 years, Donahue retired three years ago from the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Battle Creek. Once he decided to open the book store, he spoke with staff at the Downtown Battle Creek Partnership who told him about a retail incubator program that would provide him with the support he needed to get started.

"It seemed like the planets just aligned," Donahue says.

In another twist of fate, Donahue heard about a bookstore in Rutland, Vt., where his wife Ginny was born and raised, that was going out of business and selling all of its furniture. The couple took a road trip to Rutland to pick up the furniture.

Ginny Donahue has become the buyer for Battle Creek Books while also holding down a full-time job in the labs at the VA Medical Center.

Despite dire predictions for the future of books and the brick and mortar stores that sell them, Donahue says there is a small resurgence in independent booksellers, according to the American Booksellers Association.

A national movement encouraging support for local businesses and the ability of local book stores to offer local events featuring authors with ties to their communities is partly responsible for this resurgence, Donahue says.  

The events calendar for Battle Creek Books includes talks and book signings with authors such as George Franklin, former vice president with the Kellogg Company, and Brian Wilson, professor of religion at Western Michigan University.

Although books for children and young adults are a focus for Battle Creek Books, Donahue says he offers a book exchange program which gives people the opportunity to trade in gently used books for in-store credit.

"We also offer $1.49 shipping to anywhere in the United States," Donahue says as he picked up a stack of brightly colored pieces of paper, each with an order on them.

"We aren’t reinventing the wheel. We are trying to give people what they want."

Writer: Jane Parikh, Second Wave Media
Source: Jim Donahue, Battle Creek Books.