LANSING, Mich. — A new independent bookstore is now open in downtown Lansing, specializing in books by authors generally underrepresented in the literary world.
After a summer of hosting pop-up shops around the Lansing area, two indie booksellers had the opportunity to settle into a permanent space in Downtown Lansing Inc.'s new Middle Town Village Micro Market.
Christine Bennett and Elise Jajuga met through intramural sports and instantly bonded over their love of reading.
One day, while the two were on a hike, they hatched the idea for a book shop.
“We started thinking about what Lansing was missing in the literary scene and what we would like to see," Bennett said.
And so, A Novel Concept was born.
The pair hosted a number of pop-up shops in Lansing over the summer but hadn't thought they'd find a space of their own so soon.
"This was kind of a lofty goal," Jajuga said. "But we didn't know this incubator space was going to exist when we first started."
When Julie Reinhardt, community development director for Downtown Lansing Inc., approached the duo about the opportunity to have a space in their new retail innovation center, Jajuga said they "had to do it."
The opportunity changed their whole business model, but their goal as indie booksellers stayed the same.
With the pop-up shops "we would think about where we were going and the kind of people that we were going to interact with and try to curate specifically to them," Jajuga said. "We're still kind of doing that here on the same level, except most of the people who come in here kind of know that we focus on underrepresented voices, specifically those of women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors."
Jajuga and Bennett also try to personalize their customers' experiences.
"There's nothing more intimately human than being able to share a book recommendation of something that you really loved with another person," Bennett said.
The store is staffed by Bennett, Jajuga and volunteer friends and family, so recommendations can be both personalized and niche.
A Novel Concept also custom sells tote bags, stickers and book covers.
The shop at 112 S. Washington Square is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and also offers a book club for particularly avid readers.
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