With the opening of The Berkley Book Corner on Tuesday, co-owner Victor Wooddell is writing a new chapter in his life.
The new and gently used book shop on Coolidge Highway is his American dream come true – only quite a bit sooner than he expected.
Opportunity in disguise
"Until very recently, I was a member of the faculty at the Wayne State University business school," said Wooddell, who was laid off in August from his position teaching business management and leadership.
"I was actually going to run a bookshop as my retirement," said the lifelong bookworm. "I was thinking in 10 years, 15 years ... "
But, after he lost his job and discovered how tough the employment market is, his wife – co-owner Michelle Wooddell – encouraged him to to take a chance on the shop. Fortunately, he said, the pair had been prudent with their finances and had money tucked away that allowed them to purse the venture.
"We are experiencing some financial difficulty," said Wooddell, who explained that his mortgage – like those of many Metro Detroit residents – is under water. "But, on the other hand, we were able to find the space at a very reasonable price."
The Wooddells also were able to outfit the store by picking up furnishings at reduced prices from the Ann Arbor-based book chain that .
"I really loved Borders," Wooddell said. "But, sadly, when the opportunity comes by, you have to take advantage of it and, hopefully, I'll fill the same kind of niche.
"We are emphasizing the fact that we are locally owned and operated, so when you come here, you are supporting the local community, not a national chain."
The Berkley Book Corner even features a section that celebrates local authors. "We tried to offer books you're not going to find at Barnes & Noble," Wooddell said.
Clearly, retail rivals on the national level don't intimidate Wooddell.
"Except for newly published books, I believe I can beat Amazon – shipping included – on price," he said, adding he'll be happy to order anything customers request.
Something for everyone
So what else does The Berkley Book Corner have to offer?
"The store is laid out in a guy-versus-girl format," Wooddell joked.
The nonfiction portion of the 1,200-square-foot store – which includes biographies and books on history, politics, science, nature and local interest – was his purview, while his wife oversaw the fiction and literature shelves.
The latter are stocked with "a lot of adult contemporary fiction," Wooddell said.
The Berkley Book Corner also boasts a vibrant youth space called the Kid Zone.
"It's basically an extension of what we have at home," Wooddell chuckled in reference to the book store duo's two children, ages 4 and 5.
"It's still a work in progress," Wooddell said.
'Off the beaten path'
Travis Alias, who works down the street at , said he thinks The Berkley Book Corner will be a positive addition to the city.
"Berkley is a good city, but it's not being utilized right," said Alias, who also owns trulaunch.com, a business marketing and design enterprise. "So, I think people are trying to open businesses that most of the community can benefit from."
In fact, 34 businesses have submitted applications to open or move within the city during 2011, according to Mayor Marilyn Stephan.
"(Berkley) is still a little off the beaten path, so people are seeking it out," Wooddell said. "... Berkley is still a community. I think it's culturally and economically very vibrant and the business community here seems to be doing well."
He's banking that environment will pay off for The Berkley Book Corner.
"It's really exciting. It's a dream come true," Wooddell said. "It's been very hard. I've had to learn a tremendous amount in a short period of time. But, I feel good about it.
"As tough as it's been, we look forward to the future as an opportunity," he said.
When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday (subsequently, the shop's hours will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; and closed Mondays.)
Where: 2680 Coolidge Highway, Berkley
Why go: Check out more than 10,000 books in stock at The Berkley Book Corner and take advantage of a 30 percent discount on featured titles.
Cost: Depends on how much you want to spend!
What else: Visit The Berkley Book Corner's website for more information or call 248-439-0503. Join the shop's weekly newsletter to receive specials and offers.