Bookstore opens in Allegan with a Michigan-only focus

Linda S. Mah
Kalamazoo Gazette

Allegan — For the past 40 years, Larry Massie has been buying books. Now, he’s ready to start selling books.

And these are not just any books, they are all books about Michigan.

The Allegan author who specializes in Michigan histories and his wife, fellow author Priscilla Massie, opened Massie’s Michigan Books this summer. It’s in an addition on their home, an 1880 schoolhouse a mile north of the Allegan Dam.

It’s open by appointment only.

Massie helped co-found Bicentennial Books in Kalamazoo in 1975, but had to leave the store after being hired at the archives at Western Michigan University.

“It was perceived as a conflict of interest, so I got out of book selling,” he said, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette. “But I enjoyed it so much, getting the chance to meet people who love books and love talking about books.”

For the past 40 years, even though he wasn’t selling books, he was writing books, and visiting book stores, and buying books. He’d buy these books, some of which for his personal collection, but many he knew were destined for his bookstore.

When he went in a bookstore, he was looking at books related to Michigan: county histories, novels, cookbooks and poetry. Books about Native Americans, copper mining, Michigan’s involvement in the Civil War or World War II.

He eventually gathered about 5,000 volumes — including a few books of general stock and Americana — and decided now was the time to share them with others.

He built the addition on the house, built the shelves, sorted and priced the books. And opened the door — so to speak.

“We probably have the best selection of antiquarian Michigan and Great Lakes books anywhere,” Massie said. “If there were more at some other store, I would have found them.

“It’s exciting for me. I’ve spent my life promoting Michigan history. This is another aspect of that. Turning people on to good reading about Michigan.”

Priscilla Massie said she and her husband love to hop in the car and search out independent bookstores, only “there’s hardly any of them left any more. This is the kind of bookstore Larry would love to walk into and not leave.”

Massie said he’s happy to field calls and Internet inquiries about the stock, but really this is a brick and mortar store — and by that he means it’s a place to visit, a place to have a cup of coffee and stay awhile.

“One of the values of a bookstore, rather than going online is the browsing factor. It’s serendipity,” he said. “You’re apt to come across a book you didn’t know existed, but something that you like. That’s a lot of the fun, roaming the shelves and pulling out things you’ve never seen before. Then you get to hold it in your hand and decide if the condition is right, if it’s something you really want.”