Michigan News Agency

Posted by jdg | 10:34 AM | , ,

The Michigan News Agency opened its doors in 1947. Owner Vincent Malmstrom ran the store in downtown Kalamazoo for many years, and his daughter Dean Hauck took over the business and expanded the small store to sell over 6,000 magazine titles, a large selection of books (including anything published by local authors), cigarettes, candy, and soda. The store is open every day of the year from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. It's the kind of place I'd love to take people who love strip malls and big box chain stores when I have trouble getting through to them with my latte-and-arugala-fueled yuppie rants about the joy of independent businesses.

I used to skip church as a kid and run across the street to spend all of Sunday morning looking at comic books and Mad Magazine here, picking out candy, and watching the creepy guys come in to peruse the porno mags. Ms. Hauck never yelled at me that this wasn't a library. I walked into this store the other day and the sound of her voice and the smell of fresh periodicals and pipe tobacco hit me like a Proustian madeleine.

Every month my dad would drive downtown to pick up his copy of Hemmings Motor News here. He insisted that they got it before anyone else, so he never subscribed. As I grew older I moved on from the comic books and Mad Magazine to the real books and the real magazines. I would go with my dad and sometimes he would let me add something to the bill. He would buy Necco Wafers and hand them to me and my sister one by one on the way home. I spent so many hours in this store. It is a fine place for anyone who loves to read.

Ms. Hauck has always hired college students to work in the store, young kids who play cool music on the stereo and bring home outdated magazines for their friends. She fired my friend Sebastian on the day he graduated, telling him she only employs college students. At the time we thought this was illegal, done only so she wouldn't have to pay him for full-time work. I have since wondered if she didn't do it as a gesture of love, a way of saying: "Get out of here. Go out in the world. You have a degree now. Loafing about a bookstore is no job for you."

But it sure is a great way to spend a chunk of your childhood.

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