Rare bookstore is hidden Detroit gem
John K. King Rare Bookstore has been in business for years in Detroit and was recently named one of the must see bookstores in the world, among bookstores in countries like Italy, and Portugal. Our team decided to go check it out and see what makes this bookstore so special.
We made our way through the front doors and immediately, the smell of books overwhelmed our nostrils as we filed our way past the carts of free books. Ceiling high shelves line the entire span of wall space on the first floor, leaving just enough room for a cash register. Patrons wait their turn as an expert, seasoned employee and floor manager, Deb Lee, consults with an avid book reader on the value of her book collection.
Deb began at John King many years ago because she wanted to do something she loved, organizing books! Deb has now worked at King for over 10 years and has not missed a beat. She knows where to find every book in the four-story building, with over a million books—ok maybe not every book, but she does know how to find every book. Deb was kind enough to allow us to tour the entire store, interview her, and take photos to share. Be sure to check it out the next time you’re in Detroit.
What else makes this bookstore so special? John King’s bookstore is a Detroit staple. The building itself has been around longer than the John C. Lodge Expressway, making it a historical landmark. John King keeps the image of the glove on the side of the building to give people a glimpse into the building’s past.
John K. King Bookstore opened in the early 80s, although his passion for books began in high school, his journey to owning the abandoned glove factory on Lafayette began with a much smaller bookstore in Dearborn. King opened his first store in 1971 and moved on to renting a property downtown Detroit. When the rent spiked he had a few options and decided to buy his own building, so to the old glove factory he went. The bookstore opened in 1983 and has been touching lives ever since. King’s passion continues to grow and live as an inspiration to the community.
Photo credit: Brandon Burbank