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Curious Book Shop celebrates changes, business over last 40 years

October 20, 2009

East Lansing resident Heather Jacobsen, left, and Lansing resident Dennis North, go through the many shelves of books Tuesday at Curious Book Shop, 307 E. Grand River Ave.

Photo by Josh Radtke | The State News

A deterrent for many from buying Amazon’s electronic reading device Kindle is the loss of the tangible feel, distinctive smell and the pleasurable turning of the pages each book brings. Call it nostalgic, but the simple actions explain why traditional paper books still are alive and well in today’s electronic age.

For further proof of this, Curious Book Shop, 307 E. Grand River Ave., is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week.

“I’m now getting not only second-generation, but third-generation customers coming in,” owner of Curious Book Shop Ray Walsh said. “There’s people who’ve said, ‘Oh I went to school at Michigan State when you were just starting up and now I’ve got grandkids.’”

Walsh credits his business’ longevity to his eclectic variety of used and collectable books, magazines, pulps, children’s books and comic books.

Although just 18 feet wide, the store’s three floors and depth make it the second largest book shop in the state, according to Walsh. Cozy and quiet, exploring the shop is pleasant and enriching — from the vintage magazines in the basement to the sports collection on the second floor.

Walsh said he has seen many changes throughout the years, but no change has been more significant than the introduction of the computer.

“I started B.C. — before computers,” Walsh said. “A lot of prices have changed. A lot of books that were in the mid-price range, by that I’m talking in the $15 to $25 range, have become more common.”

MSU professor Arthur Versluis stopped by to look for philosophy books on religion.

“My office is across the way, it’s an easy stop,” he said.

Versluis thinks having Curious Book Shop and its sister store Archives Book Shop, 519 W. Grand River Ave., is one of East Lansing’s strengths.

Lansing Community College student Sarah Bridgewater has many fond memories of working at the shop.

“I’ve been working in the office for about five and a half years,” she said. “And I’ve been around the store since I was about 7 because my mom’s been working here since I was like 5.”

She remembers the bookstore getting her into Shel Silverstein’s work and the Berenstain Bears books.

Walsh will begin celebrating the 40th anniversary with a storewide sale starting today.

“I must admit, I never really thought I’d be doing this 40 years later, but it’s been a good 40 years,” Walsh said. “I’m kind of wondering what’s going to happen when I’ve been doing this for 70 years, or 100 years.”

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