Letters

Letters 12-14-2014

Come Together There is a time-honored war strategy known as “divide and conquer,” and never has it been more effective than now. The enemy is using it against us through television, internet and other social media. I opened a Facebook account a couple of years back to gain more entries in local contests. Since then I had fallen under its spell; I rushed into judgment on several social issues based on information found on those pages

Quiet The Phones! This weekend we attended two beautiful Christmas musical events and the enjoyment of both were significantly diminished by self-absorbed boors holding their stupid iPhones high overhead to capture extremely crucial and highly needed photos. We too own iPhones, but during a public concert we possess the decency and manners to leave them turned off and/or at home. Today’s performance, the annual Messiah Sing at Traverse City’s Central Methodist Church, was a new low: we watched as Mr. Self-Absorbed not only took several photos but then afterwards immediately posted them to his Facebook page. We were dumbfounded.

A Torturous Defense In defense of the C.I.A.’s use of torture in a mostly fruitless search for vital information, some suggest that the dire situation facing us after 9-11, justified the use of torture even at the expense of the potential loss of much of our nation’s moral authority.

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Customer-Driven

Brilliant Books a throwback to British bookstores

Elizabeth Buzzelli - November 14th, 2011  

Jack Malkin is pleased with his new bookstore in downtown Traverse City.

London bookstores can be small and quirky.

Often they’re found down narrow backstreets, behind dusty plate glass windows, the fronts outlined with old, varnished woodwork.

Waiting inside—usually there’s a bell—the owner takes great pleasure in finding the reader just the perfect book: “Ah yes, of course we have that splendid novel . . .” he says, then stands—in Dickensian mode—rubbing his hands with satisfaction as the reader leaves the store, knowing she will be back to this place where books are special and literary, where service is personal, and where the ideas inside books outshine all the disposable hate books, pop-star rip-offs, and cynical tell-alls.

A LITTLE LONDON IN TOWN

London has come to Traverse City in the form of a new downtown bookshop, Brilliant Books (an offshoot of the Sutton’s Bay Brilliant Books), at 118 E. Front Street, just east of the Opera House. It’s owned and run by Londoner, Peter Makin, and his band of book-loving employees.

In this day of huge bookstores closing across the country as the Internet cuts deeply into profits, Peter Makin thinks he’s hit upon the answer.

“I firmly believe the future of book stores is what we’re creating here in Traverse City, a small, deeply personal boutique bookstore,” he says.

“The future won’t be the Amazons or deep discounters—it will be stores catering to the customers’ tastes. Not just books,” Makin claims, “but a marketplace of ideas, if you will.”

CUSTOMER-DRIVEN STORE

Makin’s philosophy of bookstore ownership is to carry only the best the literary world has to offer while maintaining a fierce independence. “No publisher or salesman will ever decide for me what I carry on my shelves or what I display in my front windows,” he says. “Our choice of stock will be customer driven, literary. Not necessarily the most popular books, or the most heavily advertised. We carry the best—whether local writers, national, or international. Even if a book has been out a while, if it’s stood the test of time—you’ll find it here.”

In most bookstores, Makin explains, “You find a book by Wilbur Smith, who writes men’s adventure books, shelved right next to a book by Zady Smith, a young black literary writer, though their readers are very different groups. I’ll carry Zady’s book. That’s the difference in running a boutique book store, we shelve by interest, by importance. You won’t have to wade through miles of books to separate out those you want to read.”

MORE SPACE, BIGGER IDEAS

With 3600 square feet of space, Makin and his crew are planning for much bigger events than he was able to host at his Sutton’s Bay store. “We won’t do just book signings. We will do events that celebrate the book and the people who write them; writers we endorse and care about.”

Though a man of strong ideas and tastes, Peter Makin is very much a realist. His online book sales now account for up to 25% of store business. In his attempt to customize the store to his reading clientele, Makin offers a Surprise Book of the Month Club, an Online book club whose members fill out a short questionnaire on their tastes and what they would like to receive each month. “This is far more labor intensive than simply choosing a single book for everyone, but also far more satisfying—for me and my customers.”

AROUND THE WORLD AND BACK

A native Londoner, Peter Makin came to the United States at the age of 21 and settled in Los Angeles for 10 years. Then he was back to London for another 10 years. Sydney, Australia, for a few more years, and then he met his now wife Colleen, an American from Sutton’s Bay and it was back to the U.S.

He eventually opened the first Brilliant Bookstore on St. Joseph’s Street in Sutton’s Bay, where he found he was able to sustain the business because of the year-long support he received from his customers. The idea of a customer driven and supported bookstore was driven home.

When asked why he thinks Traverse City has become such a big reading and bookstore city he says, “Because there’s so much here to draw people now. I’ve noticed, over the last few years, Traverse City is appealing to a whole new segment of the population: young families drawn to the intellectual atmosphere here and to the beauty of the area. You know, Traverse City has even been called the San Francisco of the north.”

According to Jack Hannert, the store manager, who once worked for Barnes and Noble, big plans are in the works for a large open house. “There will be a lot of surprises, lots of giveaways. We want people to come in and see what we’re about,” he said.

The open house, though still being planned, is slated for sometime in November.

FOR LOVE OF READING

“We love books and we love people,” Peter says. “Opening a new shop is like grating cheese. You grate and grate and don’t seem to be getting anywhere, until you lift the grater and there it is: an amazingly big pile of cheese.”

Maybe there’s no dust here, no narrow London street, but there is the huge plate-glass window displaying Peter’s eclectic tastes in literature, there is the varnished oak woodwork, and inside the shop, an obvious love of good writing and an owner who takes great satisfaction in finding readers just the book they’ve been looking for.

 
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11.14.2011 at 02:18 Reply

What about Horizon Books? They've been meeting Traverse City's needs for 50 YEARS! I've been to Brilliant Books, and despite what their owner claims about meeting the "specialized needs" of their clientele, they mainly just traffic in bestsellers. And are  not terribly friendly about it, at that.

 

11.14.2011 at 02:18 Reply

What about Horizon Books? They've been meeting Traverse City's needs for 50 YEARS! I've been to Brilliant Books, and despite what their owner claims about meeting the "specialized needs" of their clientele, they mainly just traffic in bestsellers. And are  not terribly friendly about it, at that.

 

11.15.2011 at 09:04 Reply

I do hope Case64 gives us another visit.  We'd love to show what we do have.  Yes, we have a section of Indie bookstores' bestsellers, but the other 99% of the store is as described.  We try to carry the best in all genres and strive to avoid hate books and fads.

If we were not friendly, my apologies, please do give us another try, relax on the sofa and have a complimentray coffee while you peruse our selection.  We'll be happy to give you a tour and help you find something you'll enjoy.

 

 
 
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