Tuesday, November 22, 2011

John K. King's Used and Rare Books of Detroit

So, I finally went to King's.
It was inevitable.

Here's a peek into our trip into Detroit's
What began as a 4-story glove factory
is now a sprawling maze of books and other
paper items concerning every topic you could 
possibly imagine, and then some.
King's downtown location is Michigan's largest
book shop. I wonder where it ranks on an international scale...

I was overwhelmed, but also underwhelmed by what I found.
I'm not sure what I expected, so I cannot say what it lacked.
Nonetheless, this place is absolutely AMAZING. 
King's was established in 1965, just three years before Curious opened.
I've only been to a handful of shops like Curious and King's.
These places are usually dusty, disorderly and rather whimsical.
They're full of treasures lost and found, as well as a lot of rubbish.
Stores like these are increasingly rare - much rarer than the items they offer.
Finding a place like this can make you feel as though you've 
entered a rift in time, or someone's junk shop. 
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


 Did I mention how HUGE this old factory is?
I wish I could properly describe it, as well as where
it sits within Detroit. It's practically invisible, if you don't know 
to look for King's. In the muted landscape that is downtown,
the bookstore's faded facade easily blends into the 
downtrodden haze of Detroit's cityscape.
There were signs in the stairwell to help direct cold winter customers to
one of the few "warming stations" available. The cost of heating this entire building would be
astronomical, and you can rule out space heaters in a four-story pile of paper and dust!

I wandered further and further into the building with eyes wide and camera ready. 
I refused to look at the books themselves, trying to take in the forest rather than the trees. 
It's too bad that I hadn't brought a list of books to look for, 
as this wasn't the sort of place to just start browsing. 
I was too anxious, flitting from one little "room" to the next, 
weaving between the cases and boxes and trying not to focus on the spines.

King's is doing about as well, economically, as the other remaining stores of its ilk. 
Can you imagine how many people it takes to run a sinking ship? 
I admired the bookkeeper aprons worn by the roaming staff members, 
with bulging pockets and what looked like permanent dust stains down the fronts. 
One long-time clerk with whom I spoke for quite some time seemed a bit jaded. 
For once I was grateful for the limited space that is my little Curious Book Shop.


Planks and cinder blocks - sometimes you can't wait
for just the right bookcase, even if you're a bookseller
who is offered dozens of bookshelves every year!

King's was astonishing, wonderful, terrifying and utterly unique. 
I can't believe it had taken me so long to get there! 
The Husband couldn't believe that I only bought 2 books, for a grand total of $10.
Next time, we're going back with lists of books to look for, as well as flashlights...

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