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'Everyone should come here at least once,' John King Bookstore back open for business!

Posted at 10:40 AM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 10:46:29-04

Tucked away on the corner on Lafeyette and 5th streets stands one of Michigan's largest bookstores — John K. King Used & Rare Books.

It's locally owned and operated by John King.

John K King

“I always had a dream to open up a bookstore because when I was a kid, instead of hanging out at pool halls like they did in The Music Man, I hung out at used book stores," King said.

In 1971, King purchased his first storefront in Dearborn, Michigan.

Twelve years later, he bought a four-story building in downtown Detroit and turned it into a world-renowned used and rare bookstore.

John K King Library

“So for a lot of people, though we are a large enterprise for a bookstore, we’re still people's local bookstores," Store manager and employee of 24 years Deborah Lee said.

According to Lee and King, the John King Library has come a long way.

“Well we started with 8 books back in 1965,” King said.

Now, the bookstore houses over one million books and some are more than 100 years old.

John K

“We just grew. We just sold books, bought books. We just stayed on mission, which was to buy and sell used books, and we haven’t deviated since the beginning," King said.

Books at the Used & Rare Books bookstore can cost a customer anywhere from $10 to $150,000.

“For a very rare book like a first edition Hemingway or a Tolkien,” King said.

And like many businesses, the pandemic did cause a brief hiccup in King's business, but King says since last holiday season, business has ramped up again.

“On a Saturday here we’re so busy I'd like to see less people to be honest with you,” he said.

Lee says since the store's reopening young adults have flocked here — and she’s urging everyone else to do the same.

“I think that everyone should come here at least once because we are like extended family," she said. "We look forward to people coming because we want people to be as excited as we are about saving little pieces of history.”