So, does this mean that Cross Street Books is gone forever?

CrossStBooksClosed

If this truly is the end, I’ll miss Cross Street Books. I know it was a claustrophobic mess, but it was a claustrophobic mess of wonder and delight. It was kind of a magical place, where you never knew what you might find, and I can’t imagine Ypsilanti without it. (It’s kind of like a little microcosm of Ypsilanti itself.)

I can see how, from the point of view of a building inspector, it might make sense to close down a store were, at any moment, a customer could be crushed to death under the weight of five thousand books and several dozen generations of dust mites, but, all things considered, I think that it’s worth the gamble. What is life, after all, without a little risk in the pursuit of knowledge?

Reading shouldn’t be antiseptic. There should be an element of danger. And of mystery.

Maybe it’s just that I live a dull life, but I looked forward to my visits to Cross Street Books. I felt accomplished every time I made it out alive, having run the gauntlet from the front of the store, to the back, winding around the floor to ceiling stacks of books, and back out again… It made me feel alive, as though I’d really done something.

If this truly is the end of Cross Street Books, I hope something even more terrifyingly beautiful takes its place, as I don’t want to live in a community where there isn’t a used bookstore that invites you to take your life in your own hands, and rewards you with books that you couldn’t have imagined your wildest dreams… Wile I love clean, well laid out bookstores like Literati, there will always be a special place in my heart for the magical little manmade warrens of text that evolved over the decades at 523 West Cross Street. They, to me, really embody the unsanitized thrill and potential of the written word. And I’ll always remember them fondly.

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42 Comments

  1. anonymous
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    If it was the stacks of books that was issue, why didn’t they close the place down a decade ago?

  2. Jules
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Well, damn. Now I feel like I missed out on something. It never occurred to me that that place was an actual functioning bookstore.

  3. Posted November 10, 2014 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Movies 4 Sale

  4. Posted November 10, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Sad news! I’ve never encountered a bigger disaster of organization, and also never encountered a curator so knowledgeable about any book that anyone could think to mention.

    This summer it was closed as he started to sort through everything, but I happen to know a few people who managed to wander in anyway… and having a Book Speakeasy in town is always exciting.

  5. Steve Pickard
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Good riddance to that horrid book hoarder.

  6. James Mann
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I know the owner has been working to clear up the issues that lead to the closing. I hope to see it reopen soon, as it was not just a book store, but being in there was an adventurer .

  7. Sarah G.
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Its probably more the “absence of water, sewer and heat” part that did it in. I have seen the owner in and out a lot, so maybe he’s addressing those issues.

  8. Biscodo
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    There’s a way to (dis)organize one’s shop that isn’t a hazard to life and limb. My guess is that city action taken was for a reason.

    Just as no one should have risk their life to make a living (see also Child Labor, Mine Safety, OSHA, Triangle Shirtwaist, etc), one should not have to risk injury to go shopping, regardless of whether it’s quirky or not.

    I don’t want to get hurt on the job, nor when I go shopping.

  9. Matt Siegfried
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I have friends who’ve traveled from the East Coast to browse his black history section. A huge loss to Ypsi.

  10. Posted November 10, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    i want to clarify my feelings on the store: I was not a fan. The owner— Sheridan — raided all the used booksales in the area, and then sequestered them in this ratrap, where they usually were destroyed from poor care, tempurature (he did not heat the place in the winter, and the roof leaked, basement flooded), the stock took constant damage from water and vermin. Any book I got from there was invariably damaged and poorly maintained. The owber was like one of those cat ladies who hoard cats in the guise of saving them, doing more damage than good, and limiting access to the books for other people who wanted them and could take better care. I always cringed when I saw him with a big stack at the AADL or WCC sales….buying up books for at bag sales, marking them up, and then leaving them to be destroyed by poor care in his dangerous store…As a booklover, I say good riddance to this rat trap hoarding central. Books locally can rejoice at finding better owners now.

  11. Casey Dawson
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    My family loves this place! We have told Sheridan that we’d help him get organized and/or would help however he saw fit, but he’s never taken us up on it. We should organize a Save Cross Street Books campaign!

  12. Joe Montgomery
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I would be very disappointed if this place closed. I don’t have the time or energy to go to Ann Arbor for books, so this was really the only place besides Amazon where I could get books. And in addition to often finding what I was looking for (or having the guy call me four months later to tell me he found what I was looking for), I always found what I wasn’t looking for, which doesn’t really happen with Amazon, and which is an incredibly valuable resource.

  13. Ben
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I see him at the library every now and then. I can get a hold of him that way. We should see if we could gather together and help him cut through all the clutter to see if he can get back open!

  14. Posted November 10, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I have yet another vignette about my great love for this store (sarcasm…): I tried to get a Yoga book out of Sheridan once…Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga”, a relatively easy to find and usually cheap at used stores yoga guide…and since I’d been endangering myself going into Cross Street Books to get some other yoga books, i wanted to patronize local business, so I went on in, asked, and while Sheridan believed he might have the book, he said he was “too busy minding the store” (I was the only one in there at the moment) to go look for it, so he said he’d “special order it” (which really just meant he had to go into his basement to get it…) and have it for me the next day. Well, that one day turned into a week, another week, and another, when I kept going back every week to get it, he would apologize that he “hadn’t gotten around to it yet”…so finally after about a month of pestering him in person, (I couldn’t call because he did not have a phone…), going into his cold as stone store in January, one time when I’m about to give up, he has the book. It’s all fucked up with mice turds, water damage, and …I swear…a worm trail in the cover binding…and he’s all like “7.50 please!” (That book should’ve been thrown out…). Of course, I paid but, I did, and vowed not to go again. I got home, and sure enough, the book at a pencil price in the cover, as it was originally from the AADL Friends Booksale…”$1″.

  15. Mr. X
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know when Sheridan first opened Cross Street Books, or who his landlord is? Or does he own the building himself?

  16. Mr. X
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    It’s complicated. Steve’s criticisms are legitimate. At the same time, though, I know of other people who have found valuable, rare books there that were in good condition. It’s a crap shoot. The important thing, from my perspective is that we have a downtown used bookstore. Others have attempted it and failed. There was one on Michigan Avenue for a while, next to Bombadil’s, and there was one in Depot Town for a short while. Neither of them made it, though. And, for whatever reason, Sheridan has been able to keep going by himself in that space for a long long time. I don’t think we need to give him an award, but I think it’s worth acknowledging that he does fill a vital need in our community, which doesn’t have a “real” bookstore.

  17. Kerri
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Perfect tribute, Mark. I was in there a while back and he had a couple of shelves on F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda and other Jazz Age people. I’ve always been into the Fitzgeralds and he had books I’d never seen before. It was actually all organized and he knew about each book in detail. Kind of amazing. Yes, it’s crazy hoarder-y but so unique and so Ypsi.

  18. Gillian
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m a little torn on this one. Of course I support local businesses in Ypsi. Of course. but it frustrates me to walk down the street and pass storefronts that are messy, or closed almost all of the time, or that look like they’re closed. Unfortunately, this applies to a lot of the storefronts in town. On one hand, at least those storefronts aren’t empty, but fire-trap stacks of books and other dingy/closed storefronts (like that little drugstore on Michigan Ave that I have literally never seen open) aren’t helping the neighborhood appeal much either.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love digging through piles at used book stores, but you can have a disorganized used bookstore that is not physically dangerous and keeps up a decent looking window. If that’s not a possibility for this owner, I guess I’m not that sad to see it go. There have been some good new businesses opening along that strip lately, so opening up that space could offer a new opportunity for a business that would be better for the area as a whole (assuming, of course, that the landlord is willing and able to address the whole condemned-building problem. The landlord’s role in all this is a whole separate issue.)

  19. postsolipsist
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I think I’m more in the Steve Pickard camp than otherwise, especially re: his hording books from AAPL Friends bookstore. Also have to question how knowledgeable he was. And not bright enough to be truly knowledgeable, a kind of packrat-savant, perhaps. Doesn’t know Patrick White from Porkmuscle J. Hamfat. His dumb scheme to put your book on his “look for” list in exchange for a (continuing?) subsidy…

  20. L.G.
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Does he own the property? I always thought that was the case, but that’s based on the fact that there were burst pipes and hanging electrical wires. Most (hopefully) property owners wouldn’t allow a depreciation like that.

    I think that he needs help for his hoarding problem, rather than assistance with keeping a death trap open. It’s a really sad situation.

  21. Posted November 10, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I believe the whole building — Cross Street Books, La Fiesta Mexicana, and the apartments upstairs — is owned by Michelle, of La Fiesta.

    I’m a fan of crowded, labyrinthine bookstores with mysterious finds in the stacks, and I appreciated that I could go a year in between visits and have Sheridan greet me with, “Oh, hi! I have that book you asked about [last year] right here!” and I found some great stuff in there.

    On the other hand, I was often frustrated by his Rube Goldberg-esque business plan — at several points I picked up something that didn’t have a price on it and attempted to offer him money in exchange for it, only to be treated to a five-minute long explanation of how, well, that was a limited edition, and he knew he could get a higher amount for it online, and he was planning to list it as soon as he got a computer, but he needed to clean up the front area to build a desk to put a computer on first, etc. etc. etc. Eventually I learned that there were certain categories of items that, no matter how tempting, or how much I was willing to offer, just were not actually for sale, which is….problematic for a retailer.

  22. Posted November 10, 2014 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    There was a bookseller in Providence, RI that was the same way. I never understood it. If he didn’t want to sell it, why put it out?

  23. Posted November 10, 2014 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m kinda hoping the city makes him clean that place out and to make ends meet, or perhaps out of sheer…WTF do we do with all this stuff? … his stock somehow gets released from captivity to run the wild again.

    Run free books of Cross Street Books…Run Free!!!

  24. John Galt
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Books are for crazy people and snobs.

  25. Murph
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate the can-do spirit of Benjamin Miller here, but, like others, my own experience also makes me pessimistic that the aid would be accepted or effective, sadly.

    If you wanted to start a cooperative bookstore, though, and buy Cross Street Books’ stock (and maybe move it down the street to the much more habitable and currently vacant Cross Street Station space?) I’d buy a member share.

  26. Stewart Beal
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Murph this may just be your destiny. To organize a cooperative used book store! I would offer 206 W. Michigan in downtown Ypsilanti to such an endeavor for low long term rent. It is 1,700sf on the 1st floor and 1,700sf in the basement. Just think of how many books you could fit in there!

    I would also buy a member share.

  27. MJ
    Posted November 10, 2014 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    God forbid any business in this town or the one next door have any fucking character anymore. Lets put in another Stufd, or another stupid fake facade bullshit business…Noodles and Company anyone? Or how about one more antique store averaging 4 customers per week? Sheridan had EVERYTHING i ever asked for. Literati…yes local and all that. thats great. literati is a local bookstore with the selection of Walden Books. Awesome. whatever. I like to dig. I didn’t mind having to hook up a climbing apparatus to browse the place. Its not like I didn’t know what I was in store for going in.

  28. beermaestro
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    He first opened in ’93, when I graduated from EMU and moved into my first “real” apartment across the street. I was a frequent customer, and was amazed by his ability to recall my various, ever-changing subjects of interest.

    The last few years, I stopped going there when it became physically *impossible* to browse the shelves, and I could see my breath from the absence of heat in the building. It was apparent that his bibliophilia had evolved into something more sinister. Every weekend, I would see him on the first Saturday bus with boxes and a large backpack heading to some sale or another, even though his current inventory became unmanageable years before.

    It reminds me of some old Twilight Zone episode for some reason. “…A man…whose insatiable appetite for books….devoured him in the end….in the Twilight Zone…”

  29. Brian
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I really liked CSB at first, but the last time I went into the shop I had to endure listening to some Glenn Beck radio show while I browsed. I found the prospect of a repeat experience to be sufficient disincentive for reentry, and have not been back since.

  30. Marty
    Posted November 12, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    This is apparently part of a larger effort by the city to clean up the Business District. Similar signs went up at the former Biggie’s BBQ, next to Beezy’s, and at the small building that fronts the Adams St. parking lot across from the EMU Buisness School. I am all for this effort by the city as these locations appear to be little more than storage units for the owner’s respective garbage.

    You can see the sign at the former Biggies in a post that recently appeared on Damn Arbor: http://www.damnarbor.com/2014/11/gentri-fried-chicken-in-ypsi.html?m=1

  31. Lisa Bashert
    Posted November 12, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I would buy a share in a coop used book shop. I would shop there. I would work there. Let’s do it, Murph!

  32. Posted November 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I just invited Richard and Lisa to meet with me to talk about a coop used book shop at 206 W. Michigan in downtown Ypsilanti. I find the idea fascinating. 206 W. Michigan is large where you could have a book shop but also event space for book club gatherings, etc. If anyone else is interested in attending this potential conversation hit me up on FB.

  33. Posted November 12, 2014 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    I just put up a new post about the possibility of a downtown cooperative bookstore. So, if you have any further thoughts on the matter, please leave your comments there.

  34. Paula Strenski
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    How did he keep this going so long?
    Sher-man is surely a savant, and a friend to all, perpetually ready with good conversation. Am not a frequent shopper, yet he knows my name and all my unrelated threads of inquiries spanning 20 plus years. Always had a list or pile waiting for me, no matter how much time passed between visits.
    Forget that he isn’t obsessed with cleaning. Sher-man is one of the wonders of my life’s first virtual universe. No internet or reference librarian can match his ability to put a seeker in touch with treasure.
    The ground floor of Cross Street Books, now a time capsule, will at least live as a sculpture installation I will cherish, somewhere among my cluttered and disorganized, happy memories.

  35. Ben
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    BREAKING NEWS! I just talked to Sheridan Settler, of Cross Street Books!!! I asked him about the sign and whether the store is closing or not. He said that the city has been bugging him for a bit about the clutter and that he’s working on the clutter and hopes to reopen in a few months. He said he knows he has too much and just needs to scrap entire subjects that don’t really ever sell. ALSO he says if anyone has any secure, dry storage space for two to three months, it would help him move out the extra then move it back in as there’s more room made. I HAVE HOPE FOR CROSS STREET BOOKS. I BELIEVE.

  36. Posted November 15, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Just so you all know what’s happening relative to Cross Street Books, according to Ben Miller, who spoke with Sheridan, he’s trying his best to get the code violations taken care of so that he can get opened again. And, toward that end, he’s looking for space around town to store his excess stock for a few months. I’m not sure if he’ll accept my advice, but, when I heard this, I suggested that, instead, he have a fundraising book sale somewhere in town, and try to get rid of his excess books that way. Doing so would not only get his stock down to a more manageable level, but it would get him the capital that he needed to address the heat and water issues which also exist… If he were to go that route, I’d be happy to help promote the event.

  37. James Williams
    Posted November 18, 2014 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    I last shopped there about ten years ago, and was put off by the state of the store. I prefer my bookstores to be cluttered, but Cross Street Books was simply unusable. Most of the charm of such places is finding a book that you want but didn’t realize existed until you found it- and that couldn’t happen there, since the shelves were impossible to browse.

    I was left with the impression that it was not quite a business, but more of an odd/unhealthy obsession of the owner.

  38. Meta
    Posted November 19, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    The Ann Arbor News is now on the story.

    Blocked aisles/egress, excessive fire load, absence of water/sewer and heat were all listed as reasons why Cross Street Books has been declared unfit for occupancy by the City of Ypsilanti Fire Department.

    However, specifics about what led to the closing have yet to be revealed by the city or the owner.

    “This business is declared unlawful and/or unfit for human occupancy or use. It is unlawful for any person(s) to use or occupy this portion of the building after Sept. 17, 2014,” the notice reads.

    While the building is unfit for occupancy and the store is now closed, neither city officials nor store owner Sheridan Settler are willing to comment about the closure.

    Read more:
    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/11/ypsilanti_fire_department_decl.html#incart_river

  39. Posted November 19, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    We need to get Rand Paul on this.

  40. Just Saw This
    Posted November 30, 2014 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    http://i.imgur.com/wRvcgwb.jpg

  41. Jill Anderson
    Posted May 11, 2015 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I called Sheridan about a book I was sure he’d never heard of, ‘Motel of the Mysteries’. He didn’t have it, but within a week he called to say he found it! Magical Sheridan!

  42. Benjamin Kuipers
    Posted August 15, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    It’s open again! He’s cleaned up quite a bit. He had a book I was looking for a couple of weeks ago, and I just today called for something else. He didn’t have it, but will watch for it. Welcome back!

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] few days ago, I posted something here about the City having shut down our local used bookstore, Cross Street Books. While acknowledging that there were certainly issues with the peculiar, little store, which has […]

  2. By Ypsi Book Co-op meeting December 2 on December 1, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    […] months ago, our local used bookstore, Cross Street Books, was shut down by the City for various code violations. This led to a spirited conversation here on the site, during which […]

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