“Right across from Borders,” has probably been the answer to many questions about the location of the Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor. Sadly, that answer will soon be changing, with the closure of all Borders bookstores by September 2011.
For myself and others, the Borders bookstore on Liberty Street has always been a friendly and familiar part of the area around the Michigan. Many times, I’ve cut across Liberty in between the Michigan and Borders. Visiting both places created a package of entertainment that became another unique Ann Arbor experience.
If I arrived early for a movie, it was a good excuse to wander across the street and pick up a book, magazine, CD, or DVD. My choice of seats at the Michigan has been influenced by the locations of good reading light. And after an enjoyable evening at the Michigan, I’ve often sustained that feeling with a stop at Borders.
I remember a Sunday afternoon one December when I stopped at the Michigan at 1:30 p.m. for a Kiwanis Christmas show, followed by a trip to Borders for some holiday shopping. I then returned to the Michigan for a 4 p.m. movie, and started reading a new book while waiting for the film to begin.
There was a Friday evening when I caught a movie at the Michigan after work, then stopped in at Borders, which was buzzing with that Friday night feeling. I relaxed in the coffee shop with some new books and a dinner of baked goods and iced tea.
Through the years, Borders has often sponsored programming at the Michigan. It was fulfilling to contribute to that economic synergy during Ann Arbor visits that included stops at both places. The front windows of Borders on Liberty have been a prominent area for advertising for the Michigan. And the marquee of the Michigan is easily visible from the second floor of Borders. At night, the lights from both businesses helped guide pedestrians along that section of Liberty that connects downtown Ann Arbor with the central campus of the University of Michigan.
Borders has also been an important part of my visits to the other Detroit Movie Palaces. Visits to the Redford often included stops at a Borders outlet store on Grand River in downtown Farmington, before those outlet stores closed a few years ago. And Borders was where I found a copy of one of my favorite film books—VideoHound’s World Cinema: The Adventurer’s Guide to Movie Watching, by DFT founder Elliot Wilhelm.
So what will the future bring for the Borders location across from the Michigan Theater? It’s hard to imagine that spot staying empty for long, with all the foot traffic in that area near State and Liberty.
My personal hope is that a national bookstore chain like Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million takes over the location. That way, it stays a destination for book lovers, the same way that the Michigan remained a favorite place for filmgoers when its ownership changed about 30 years ago.
Copyright © 2011 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.