A Grand Rapids native, I was strictly a library girl growing up, and most of my books came from the local library or after begging my parents for a $5 paperback from the grocery store. Now, as an adult, I still consume a lot of content from the library or from mass-market channels, but I can also say that I’ve discovered a lot of truly wonderful indie stores that offer a variety of bookish things, coffee and snacks, and community. Here are a few of my favorites.
Schuler Books is much larger than your average indie but still gives off that quirky indie feel. Schuler Books has something for everyone—although most of the books are new and traditionally published, there’s also a section of used books and self-published books by local authors. Books and bookish gifts go hand-in-hand at Schuler Books, and the bookstore also carries things like journals, calendars, toys, movies, magazines, and games. Schuler Books is plugged in and committed to the Grand Rapids community, and their calendar is chock full of events and meetings. From local author nights to storytime for the kids to game nights and even a study space for students, there is a space for everyone here. When you check out Schuler Books and are in need of your daily dose of caffeine, don’t forget to stop by their Chapbook Café, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
“Grand Rapids’ proudly progressive, consciously curated, and fiercely independent neighborhood bookstore” is how owner Jenny Kinne describes Books & Mortar. Books & Mortar opened in 2016 and has been a community staple since then. Each book and gift is handpicked, and you can be assured that it is is not only a great read but proudly progressive. Books & Mortar supports progressive organizations and proudly leaves space for political activism in the store. That’s one thing that sets this indie apart: Books & Mortar vocalizes a political opinion and has a political personality. No doubt about it, this bookstore believes in the power of books to change people and change communities.
Part of the mission statement of this indie, located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, is “to act as ambassadors for all things geeky and to present our wares as the awesome, fun, and universally accessible pieces of entertainment that they are.” Mission accomplished. Vault of Midnight carries a wide range of comic books from publishers all around the world. Graphic novels, manga, children’s books—you name it, Vault of Midnight is true to its mission as a geek ambassador. The bookstore is also deeply embedded in the local community, hosting in-store and offsite events like game nights and book signings. What makes Vault of Midnight so special is its intentional relationship with local creators. Vault of Midnight supports local artists, and you can usually find a large selection of comics, games, and merchandise created by artists in the community.
Located just north of Grand Rapids, Epilogue Books carries a tremendous regional section. They have a variety of books on nature, history, outdoor, sports teams, and travel in West Michigan. The bookstore carries all genres of books, and you can always find unique gifts created by local artists. They host a weekly storytime for kids and a monthly book club. Even if you just stop by to browse, be sure to grab a coffee made with a locally roasted brew and say “hello” to Tommy, the golden retriever who can usually be found hanging around the bookstore.
Argos Book Shop’s name is a bit of a misnomer since it is so much more than just a book shop. It’s also sells used vinyl, DVDs, CDs, VHS (yes, seriously!), and magazines too. Comic lovers can relax as Argos takes holds for comics so that you can get it on the day it comes out. The oldest and largest used bookstore in Grand Rapids, Argos Book Shop is the book lover’s ultimate destination for used books. And with prices like 50¢ for a paperback, it’s definitely one bookish location that you can’t afford to miss!
Specializing in rare, out-of-print, and antiquarian books, Redux Books is an ideal stop for those looking to add to their bookish collections. Redux Books also carries a large selection of bestseller paperbacks and ever textbooks. Even more, Redux Books buys all different kinds of books to stock their store. If you’re a collector or looking to find a special one-of-a-kind edition of your favorite book, Redux Books has your back.
This indie sells and rents audiobooks. “I’m sorry, what?” you might find yourself asking. Offering affordable rental plans to cater to everyone from the occasional listener to the enthusiastic audiophile, customers can rent or buy individual titles on a CD or pay a monthly fee for unlimited rentals. With only about ten audiobook stores remaining in the U.S., iskape Audiobooks really is one-of-a-kind!
Grand Rapids has a ton of small and local businesses that are worth supporting. Be sure to add these indie bookstores to your travel agenda!