Meet the guardian of Almont's little gem
May 27, 2009She dreams of being the 'John King' of Lapeer County, and just five years into the business Janis Grant may already be there.
So who's John King? Grant gasps with disbelief when I ask. Anyone with reverence for the printed word absolutely should know about the largest used and rare book store in the state of Michigan. King's famous Detroit warehouse-type store offers more than 750,000 titles at its historic location on Lafayette Boulevard.
According to his Web site, King credits the late Elsie Freitag—his high school guidance counselor—for sparking his success. Freitag "steered him toward making his passion—buying & selling used books and antiques—his profession," the Web site says.
After trying a stint in college in upstate New York, King scavenged enough material to open a shop in Dearborn. Eventually he moved to downtown Detroit, occupying the Michigan Theatre Building. After outgrowing that site in 1983, King purchased a huge abandoned factory building to ultimately fill its four stories with books.
Grant doesn't have four stories, but she does have 1,700 square feet of shelving space that houses more than 12,000 titles in a refurbished home with a little local flavor of its own.
After operating out of the historic Mill in downtown Almont for the past few years, Grant has set up shop a little off the beaten path next door at 610 S. Main Street. Longtime Almont residents will recognize the place (located behind Hearts of Glory Resale Shop) as the Troia family's former home. For years they operated Troia's restaurant, where the resale shop now sits.
The move was work-intensive and harrowing, but for Grant—like King—necessary to the pursuit of her passion.
|Surrounded by books collected and revered, Janis Grant enjoys spreading the word at ReLiteration Used Books in Almont. photo by Catherine Minolli.|
"Sometimes I wonder 'what was I thinking?'" Grant says, waving her arms toward the shelves brimming with books. "But it's always been my dream to have a used book store. And there are days when I know it's the right thing."
It's definitely the 'right thing' for Grant's loyal customers—who come from across the area—to pick up her great finds. She also lists about 1,500 titles on amazon.com, a favorite part of the book selling business for Grant.
"It's so fun because it's so unpredictable, you never know what you're going to get," the former teacher says.
By way of example she tells of her latest shipment—a purchase she simply cannot figure no matter how hard she tries.
"Do you remember the Lil' Abner comic strips?," Grant says, smiling. "Well, I do. I never 'got' them, didn't see the humor. Well I just shipped a book of Lil' Abner comics to a buyer in Finland. Finland! Can you imagine that?"
Not really, I admit.
Whether it's Lil' Abner or World War II history, Grant knows exactly where every book is shelved. My co-worker Tom asks her about low brow art and Janis migrates to a shelf. I say I'm interested in the life of Lucille Ball and Janis moves to another part of the room and thumbs through the titles. Cookbooks, self-help books, fiction, literature, biographies, non-fiction, history, mysteries, you name it—she knows where you'll find it.
Not only does Grant know where all the books are, she's attached to them in a way that only a true book lover can relate to.
"She's got a relationship with all of them," jokes Christine Bailey, book store patron and friend.
Grant grins and nods. Yes, it's true. She sees the irony in the situation: it's hard to let go of the books—a necessary requirement if she's to make any money.
"Sometimes I say 'you don't really want to buy that, do you?" Grant laughs.
Spoken like a true lover of the printed word. A guardian of civilization's link to a higher self—books.
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