Borders: Sharing a Space with Bookstores and Colleges

Every Friday during my junior year in high school, my father would make the two and a half hour drive to Ann Arbor to take me to the University of Michigan Hospital. When we turned off of I-94 and followed the signs to the Cancer Center parking structure, there was no indication that the second largest bookstore chain in the country got its start in this city.  I wasn’t even aware that it had until I heard about its liquidation less than two years later.   Borders Book Shop was founded in 1971 by Tom and Louis Borders while they were studying at the University of Michigan. The location of that first store, which sold used books, is now occupied by a CVS and housing for their Alma mater.


Roughly 116,000 people live in Ann Arbor if the college students that reside there for most of the year are included in the count.   There are five universities within the 27.7 square miles of the city and the University of Michigan takes up one fifth of that space, making it the largest employer in the area.  Ann Arbor can claim notoriety for bring the birth place of  Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, being the place where Goggle has an office and where the first Zingerman’s Deli opened shop, but it is the educational institutions that really grab the attention of those not from the area.  The Borders Brothers founded their bookstore to help them pay for school, but locating in a college town also helped them grow it into a multinational corporation.

Ann Arbor is a fairly young city with a median age of 27.8 compared to the median of 45.5 for the state .  The average household income is over $3,000 more in this city than the Michigan average, and it;s home to almost three times the number of foreign born residents, making up an estimated 17.2% of its population.   When compared to the nation, Ann Arbor ranks as one of the country’s safest cities and among the most educated.  70.7% of people over the age of 25 have abachelor degree and 40.4% of them have a graduate or professional degree.  The most common occupations deal with accounting and protective services, and the most common industries relate to education.


209-211 South State Street before the CVS occupied the space next to the University of Michigan housing on the far left.

original borders

The original Borders Book Shop at 211 South State street

 To the person just passing through Ann Arbor it is clear that this place is the home of the University of Michigan, a lot of book stores and even more full service restaurants.  The more my father and I take the trip to the hospital, this area becomes less of a destination and more of a place even though my glances of it have been chiefly through car and waiting room windows. I started putting down the book I brought along to take up time and spent it by talking with my father as we tried our best to think of how a Jane Austin character would describe the graffiti under the railway bridge.

Borders may no longer be in business but over forty years the company was able to foster a love of reading and literary discussion in a generation that has more ways to read a book than ever before. Ann Arbor now has many independent bookstores that have been able to cater to the interests of the community despite the two Barnes & Noble stories so close by.  These bookstore owners made a “space turn into [a] place” that is worth coming back to (Cresswell 2).  I discovered a passion for books at the Borders in my local mall and the memories of those stories I encountered there keep compelling me to feed my imagination with what Christopher Morley calls “escapes into print” (68).  Now that I am in college and spend most of my time in Pennsylvania, I will miss seeing the bookstore that seemed to lessen the miles between me and my home state and the time when I had another road trip with my father.





Bomey, Nathan. “Borders’ Rise and Fall: A Timeline of the Bookstore Chain’s 40-year History.” The Ann Arbor Times, 18 July 2011. Web. 11 Sept. 20. <>.


Gardner, Paula. “CVS Buys South State Building as It Moves Ahead with New Downtown Ann Arbor Store.” The Ann Arbor Times, 20 May 2010. Web. 10 Sept. 2013. <>.


“Ann Arbor, Michigan.” (MI) Profile: Population, Maps, Real Estate, Averages, Homes, Statistics, Relocation, Travel, Jobs, Hospitals, Schools, Crime, Moving, Houses, News. Onboard Informatics, n.d. Web. 9 Sept. 2013. <>.

“Find a Local Business.” MLive Media Group, n.d. Web. 9 Sept. 2013. <>.