TRAVERSE CITY — Plot twist — Horizon Books isn’t writing its last chapter, after all.
“We’re not closing,” Amy Reynolds said Monday, of the bookstore that has anchored Front Street for close to six decades. “We’re looking at how to make the building viable as a community space, we have some ideas that aren’t finalized yet, but it will stay a bookstore.”
In mid-January, Reynolds, who owns Horizon Books on Front Street with her husband, Vic Herman, announced the store was closing. The couple was getting older, Herman had already retired and Reynolds said she wanted to work less and travel more.
Then two things happened in quick succession: COVID-19 and an outpouring of community support for the bookstore. And, the couple reevaluated their plans to sell, she said.
Word spread over the weekend that the store wasn’t closing. By Monday Reynolds had delivered the good news so many times, she’d come to expect one of two reactions from customers.
“They either dance a little jig or cross themselves and say “Hallelujah,” she said Monday, laughing.
Rotary Charities staff worked with the Downtown Development Authority and Horizon staff to fund a $26,000 IFF study on the role of the bookstore in the community.
Rotary Charities paid $21,000; the DDA $5,000, meetings were held via Zoom and the results are still being finalized, said Becky Ewing, Rotary Charities executive director.
“The really beautiful thing about Horizon is the organic way it grew into a community space,” Ewing said. “Our board invested in the study as part of our longterm commitment to downtown. This is an indoor space that’s accessible to everyone.”
The IFF is a Chicago-based nonprofit with an office in Detroit that focuses resources in the form of appraisal-free loans and research toward improving community organizations in the Midwest.
Both Goodwill and Dan’s House have worked with IFF, Ewing said.
IFF opened its Michigan office in 2014 and has since closed 134 loans totaling more than $88 million to nonprofit and community organizations in 12 cities, the organization’s website states.
The bookstore has also received advice from the American Booksellers Association, a trade group for independent booksellers based in White Plains, Reynolds said.
Horizon Books was founded in 1961, and over the years the company has operated bookstores in Traverse City, Petoskey, Beulah and Cadillac. The Beulah store closed in the 1980s, the Petoskey store closed in 2017 and for the time being, the Cadillac store will remain open, Reynolds said.
But the flagship store has been on Front Street for most of those five decades, first in a narrow space near the old Empire Bank, and then in the current 22,000 square-foot, three-level location which took over the once-vacant J.C. Penney’s department store building in 1993.
“The challenge trying to find some way to finance a community space,” Reynolds said. “Pending the results of the study, all I can say is we’re not selling. And, if someone has a good idea on how to achieve what we’re trying to do, I’m amenable to hearing what that is.”
Horizon Books is open daily and offers phone orders for curbside pick-up. More information on their website horizonbooks.com.