John K. King North
Located in Ferndale, Michigan
Located on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale, John K. King Books North is a separate store that buys, trades and sells its own collection of titles. Like our main store, John K. King Books North has a wide-ranging selection of various genres, just in a less voluminous amount. Only a few blocks south of the intersection of Woodward Ave and 9 Mile, it is a convenient stop for book lovers in and out of the Ferndale Area. Parking meters and neighborhood street parking available.
Operating hours of the Ferndale store are:
Tues: 12:00-6:00pm EST
Wed: 11:00-7:00pm EST
Thurs: 11:00-7:00pm EST
Fri: 11:00-7:00pm EST
Sat: 10:00-6:00pm EST
Sun: 12:00-5:00pm EST
CLOSED CHRISTMAS DAY AND OTHER MAJOR HOLIDAYS
A HISTORY OF
JOHN K. KING BOOKS NORTH
Nobody seems to remember exactly when John King Books North opened; it was either July 1, 1988 or 1989. It was what they call now a “soft opening”: no marching bands, no parties, no articles in the local paper. We just cleared out the building that Spring, built the shelves and the front counter, and started loading the place with books. That’s the great part about having a store like our main store in Detroit… there are plenty of books to spread around.
The store was an old model/hobby shop, a Ferndale fixture for decades. When John King bought the building, there were still signs on the walls advertising model trains. There were offices near the back of the store, perched on pillars and accessed by a winding metal circular staircase. All that was removed, and the staircase sold to someone who wanted it for his own house. The only thing John kept from the model shop was the railroad crossing sign in front of the building; it still lights up at night, though now it says “Books/Books”. For years, people would walk in the front door of the store and ask, “Where are the trains?” Maybe some old timers still do it today, too.
Ferndale was a much different place back in the 1980s. It was a sleepy bedroom community filled with aging couples whose children had grown and moved on. At one time, there were four drug stores at the corner of Woodward and 9 Mile (see Ripley’s Believe it or Not), but within a few years, even they had all moved out. Up the street from King Books North was another book store, Paperbacks Unlimited, which sold only new books; we had a great relationship with them: they sent customers to us, and we sent customers to them. There was a diner in the next block, a magic shop around the corner on 9-Mile, and further down the old Sam’s Jams used records. No trendy coffee shops, no fashion boutiques.
Our first managers were Tom H and Laura L. Tom was an employee of the main store, and Laura was a student in the English Department at Wayne State. There were a couple of other employees at the start whose names have been lost to the ages, but Tom and Laura were the ones who priced the books and made things happen.
Laura left that next winter, and ended up passing away not long after. Tom stayed on as the manager into the early 2000s, working four days a week at the main store, and Saturdays in Ferndale. Later on, we had a succession of managers and workers, some who even left and came back a few times.
The one constant for about 10 or 12 years was Maggie, an overweight tabby cat, who adopted the store as her home after one of our customers dropped her off, saying that used bookstores needed cats. Maggie left the books and the customers alone – she was not in any shape to pounce from hiding spots or climb the shelves. She was healthy enough, though, and she provided a bit of distraction for the children of the serious book browsers. You could find her sunning herself in the west-facing front windows in the late afternoon, or curled up in empty boxes, fast asleep during her nap times.
Somewhere along the line, we picked up (from a bookstore in Southfield that went out of business) the big orange category signs that hang from the ceiling. An old church bench came from… nobody remembers. There are some comfy chairs now in the front window (Maggie would have LOVED them), and we even use a computer to check prices and sell books online.
The smell of fresh-cut pine from the bookshelves has long since dissipated, the carpet is getting quite worn in spots, and sometimes the windows rattle in the wind. But, the books are there, getting purchased and replaced daily. It’s a relatively quiet space along the busy street, an oasis of age in this brand new Ferndale. Thirty years old now, give or take a year. ~Tom Jr.