Monday, February 25, 2008

Shop Friend: Shaman Drum Bookshop

Here it is, my all-time favorite indie shop in the world.



I am SO excited to post my Shop Friend, Shaman Drum Bookshop, because it is very near and dear to my heart. Shaman Drum is located on the University of Michigan campus of Ann Arbor, Michigan and is considered one of the leading independent bookshops in the country.

I've always said that I don't have any retail background to opening up my boutiques, but the closest was probably my nearly three year part time stint at Shaman Drum before and during my grad school days at University of Michigan. All of us were nose-deep in our books and studies but we considered it a privilege to work there. And yes, we were expected to stock, mop, cash out customers and help out with the local events...but most of all, we were expected to have our "stuff" down about goings on in the literary world and be able to assist the customers on this. Dare I confess, I never felt like I was in a retail environment but a place of learning.

The Ann Arbor campus is about as ideal of a place of learning as it can get and Shaman Drum Bookshop seemed to come out of an episode of Northern Exposure with a smart and somewhat quirky staff and a never ending, revolving set of infamous authors and poets and artists that always had us on our toes.

Call it utopic, other-wordly, authentic or just plain self-obsessed...it was unreal and a great joy to be able to work in an environment like that. I had a chance to visit the shop when I was back in Michigan for the holidays which affirmed for me that this remains one of the truest of true indie shops.

For one, everyone who worked there was a budding writer, or philosophy major...even the store manager happened to be my poetry professor, Keith Taylor, who had such an enormous influence on my writing and other writers in the community. We were surrounded by beloved books and we all loved literature...there wasn't a spine or new author we did not know or gossip about. Some of my most memorable memories were of the Beat Generation poets like Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder who were friends of the shop. The late Allen Ginsberg came frequently and if you were lucky, he would draw you a pen and ink monster when he signed books. I also remember rocker Patti Smith pulling me aside and giving me advice on teeth hygeine (apparently bad teeth were the bane of her existence).
above : a photograph of my poetry professor, Keith, and a zen reading nook.

above right: Beat Poet, Allen Ginsburg and one of his many "drawings" to the shop.

They have a section on their website called "why should I shop local" with scholarly books on indie biz with titles like "The Small Mart Revolution" and "Surviving the Converging." They have always been firm believers in shopping local and shopping independent and organized many local events in the community to promote this. I am so thankful to have had the experience of working there because it certainly influenced my decisions as an indie designer (and shop owner) today. Yes, my boutiques are pink, girly and I doodle (err, call it design) more than I write as of late...but the essence of Shaman Drum has certainly rubbed off on me.

4 Comments:

Jennifer said...

I wish we had a Shaman Drum Bookshop in San Francisco! Do you know of any close seconds?

cw said...

Ahh so this is part of where it all began! Thank you, Shaman Drum Bookshop, for your influence in Cat Seto's pleasantly welcoming environment!

michelle said...

Yes! Univ. of Mich is truly special...where else would a Google co-founder hail from?

design for mankind. said...

You have such a LOVELY blog!!! :)