Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, Mich. is up for sale. The independent bookstore, which first opened as a Little Professor bookstore in 1991, won the Women’s National Book Association’s Pannell Award in 2013 for a general bookstore that excels in contributing to its community. Nicola’s has been owned since 1995 by Nicola Rooney, who ran it as a Little Professor franchise after moving to Michigan from Canada that same year.
In 1997, after re-negotiating the franchise agreement with Little Professor, Rooney changed the name of the store to Nicola’s. The store, which is located in an 8,500-square-foot retail space in Westgate Mall, a strip mall on the western side of Ann Arbor, is considered a mainstay in a town that, in recent years, has undergone much transition: literary icons like Borders Books’ flagship store and Shaman Drum both closed their doors and new independents – Literati Books and Bookbound – have opened for business.
Rooney emphasized this morning in a telephone interview with PW that there is ”no urgency” in her decision to sell the store, which carries approximately 55,000 titles, a third of them children’s books, and another third adult fiction titles. Rooney, who originally hails from England, explained that her mother is 94 years old and that, in the past year, she has been absent from the store “for a significant amount of time,” tending to her mother’s care in England. She also has grandchildren in the U.K. with whom she would like to spend more time.
“I have a long-term continuation plan in mind,” Rooney said, “It’s really a gentle process. My ideal scenario is a gentle transition." She envisions assisting any new owner through the process as much and as long as she can.
“I won’t feel as if I am abandoning the store if I have to leave on short notice,” she said, “And I’d like to feel as if I’m leaving it in someone else’s good hands.”
Rooney, who said she’d been quietly spreading the word among her bookseller colleagues since October, will officially announce to her customers in the February 1 bookstore e-mail newsletter her plans to find a buyer for the store. There is no deadline, she emphasized to PW.
Rooney said that while sales at the store have “settled” since they’d spiked after Borders closed three local stores and went out of business in 2011, it is a profitable enterprise. “I even pay myself,” she joked. She doesn’t think that any of her 14 employees will make an offer. “It’s a hefty investment,” she said.