Five years after launching the Literati Bookstore in downtown Ann Arbor, co-owners Mike and Hilary Gustafson started a new chapter in their lives in June with the birth of their daughter, Greta Lane. Mike calls the addition, “already the most wonderful chapter.”
Famous actress Greta Garbo’s given name was Greta Gustafsson, the couple discovered while researching baby names. “I thought that was a sign,” Mike explains.
Community-focused, national notoriety
The Gustafson’s story begins with a vision to build a community-focused, independent bookstore. Fast forward to today, and the couple has lovingly grown their business from nine thousand books and seven employees to twenty five thousand books and twenty five employees. This year, they also saw the publication of the book Notes from a Public Typewriter, edited by Mike Gustafson and Oliver Uberti, based on anonymous notes typed on a typewriter in the basement of the bookstore. The book and the public typewriter have gained notoriety by being featured on National Public Radio’s Stateside program and NBC Nightly News.
Confident in the Literati staff, Mike Gustafson said that the couple has been able to take some time away from the business enjoying their new role as parents and realizing just how much starting a business and becoming parents have in common.
“Those first few weeks are chaotic, full of sleepless nights, and it is a stimulation overload. There is so much learning. But you fall in love,” he said, describing his life right now as “content.”
“I’m thrilled that Literati Bookstore has made it five years. I’m proud of our staff for working so hard these five years, and I’m extremely grateful to do this all with my wife and co-owner, Hilary, whose guidance, passion, and expertise is unparalleled.”
A future for Greta
The Gustafsons have fused their community vision with an eye toward the future they want to see for their daughter— for her to be part of a progressive, welcoming community. “I want my daughter to grow up in an arts-focused community that is a little quirky and a little bit different than every other town in the country,” Gustafson wrote. “And most of all, when she moves away one day (I don’t pretend to imagine she’ll live in our house forever), I want her to look back and say, ‘I really miss Ann Arbor.’”
Now, as the pair journey into parenthood while continuing with bookstore ownership, they hope to continue to expand their kids section, bringing authors into local schools and continuing to offer children’s story times, perhaps making the story times more age-specific. The cozy children’s nook nestled in the upstairs of the store, just beyond the coffee counter, has colorful lightbulbs hanging whimsically, inviting children to explore the books around them.
To foster a love of books in their children, Mike suggests that parents “read to them. Read with them. Take them to the bookstore and the library. Kids love stories and books. Let that literature love bloom however you can.”
Q&A with Mike Gustafson
Book you want to share with Greta: Anything by Phil and Erin Stead. (My favorite by the authors is “A Sick Day for Amos McGee.”)
Favorite place to read in Ann Arbor: I like quietude when reading, so I would say my couch.
Favorite place to take a stroll: The old west side is my favorite place to stroll. We like to walk downtown to get some ice cream, then take a stroll through the neighborhood.
For more information about Literati Bookstore, book offerings, events, story times and staff picks, go to literatibookstore.com.