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Historic Detroit bookstore houses millions of books

Historic Detroit bookstore houses millions of books
Historic Detroit bookstore houses millions of books 03:14

(CBS DETROIT) - March is National Reading Month, and CBS News Detroit is celebrating by highlighting a city staple that also happens to be one of the largest used bookstores in the world, John K. King Used and Rare Books.

John K. King first started selling books in 1965 out of the trunk of his car. A few years later, he opened his first storefront in the Michigan Theatre Building but outgrew that space in the early '80s, and moved into an old factory at his current location at West Lafayette and the Lodge. 

"A lot of people came down here," King said. "We were a destination store."

After moving into the four-floor factory, within a few years, every floor of the building was filled with books, prompting King to purchase the office building behind the store so he'd have enough space for his office and a rare book room upstairs.

"I just feel very lucky and fortunate," he said.

Those who work alongside him like store manager, Debora Lee, feel the same.

"It's such a gift that Mr. King has put his whole life into this," Lee said. "I tell people, it's his life encapsulated in a couple buildings."

According to Lee, it's those couple of buildings and the maze of books housed inside that keep people coming back.

"I see the excitement in other individuals," she said. "Like that glimmer in their eye. Like, I'm getting it."

Despite competing with computer screens, social media, and texting, for King, the business of books still excites him.

"I love to sell other people's books because there are so many ideas, there's so much knowledge in these used books," he said. "When people come in, they'll discover books they didn't know existed. So, I think we're more beneficial than the internet."

King says he plans to keep his bookstore doors open because he hasn't achieved his version of success just yet.  

"Other people say I run a successful business," King said. "To me, I'm still trying to succeed, because if I thought I succeeded, I probably would quit."

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