Warrior couple opens Next Chapter Books, a pop-up bookstore on Detroit’s East Side
Next Chapter Books began as a pop-up bookstore on Warren Avenue last November and has already become a staple in the Morningside and East English Village neighborhoods.
Owners Jay Williams, a M.A.P.H. student at the Wayne State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and spouse Sarah Williams, CLAS ‘20, possess a long-standing love of books and, for years, have wanted to open a bookstore of their own.
Married for nearly 30 years, the couple never thought it the right time to make that dream a reality. Not until last summer. Their three daughters have grown up and out of the house. Sarah finished her bachelor’s in journalism in 2020, and months later, Jay stepped away from a long-term career in the automotive industry to go back to school and get his master’s in public history.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we had a lot of questions about what we were going to do next,” Jay said. “We started visiting local bookstores just to kind of get a feel and start talking to people and really start looking at doing pop-up events.”
Sarah said they wanted to give space to other independent bookstores in Detroit and discovered there were no full-time independent bookstores from Woodward Avenue to Grosse Pointe.
The Williams reached out to the E. Warren Development Corp about participating in their upcoming holiday market in December but EWDC surprised them with another idea: A retail space at the historic Alger Theatre that closed in 1985. An organization called Friends of the Alger is currently renovating the space and was on the lookout for temporary occupants.
“We asked if a bookstore was even a need in the neighborhood,” Sarah said. “EWDC was enthusiastic about us coming out, hearing from neighbors, and seeing what they had to say. The corporation had been conducting community surveys there for some time, and a bookstore had repeatedly been in the top 5 of what residents wanted.”
The Williams moved in and Next Chapter Books will remain at the Alger through April 2023.
Next Chapter Books sells new and used books across a spectrum of genres—from sci-fi and thrillers, to memoir, young adult, adult, and children’s books—and features local and historically underrepresented authors.
In the months since its opening, Next Chapter Books has welcomed many customers-turned-regulars, hosted kids’ story times, and recently launched a book club to a packed bookstore. A few neighbors even created a video to help tell Next Chapter Books’ story and what having a bookstore in their neighborhood means to them.
“It’s really clear that the community wants us to succeed,” Sarah said, “that they want us to be a part of the neighborhood.”
The Williams hope to find a permanent space on the East Side not far from their current location.
“It’s exciting to be rooted in the literary community in Detroit,” Jay said. “We want to foster a space where all ages love reading, where our neighbors are valued and can see themselves in our bookstore.”
Visit Next Chapter Books
Next Chapter Books is open Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 16451 E. Warren Avenue in Detroit. Can’t make it into the shop? You can purchase books online and support Next Chapter Books through Bookshop.org.