Schuler Books announced this morning it has acquired Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor. Owner of Nicola's, Nicola Rooney, who said in January that she was retiring from bookselling, will stay on as a consultant during the transition.
The 9,800-square-foot store, which won a 2013 Pannell Award, will continue to operate in the Westgate Shopping Center as Nicola’s Books. A bookstore location since 1991, the space was previously occupied by a Little Professor franchise. Rooney purchased it in 1995, and renamed it in 1997.
“[Schuler] said they’re not even adding their names to it,” Rooney told PW, referring to the plans the Michigan group of bookstores has for Nicola's. “It’s not going to change any more than it would have with normal evolution.”
The sale will be officially complete by mid-August, Rooney said, but the announcement was made now to quell any notions that the store's future was uncertain.
“People came in and said they’d heard we were going to close down,” Rooney explained. “We wanted everyone to know that it was settled, and that [the sale] is something that I wanted, am happy with, and it is good for the store.”
Rooney said that Schuler personnel have already been granted access to Nicola’s computers, and that the store’s frontlist orders for the fall will be switched over to Schuler accounts.
Rooney said that Kate McCune, a HarperCollins sales rep who once managed a bookstore that Rooney previously owned, acted as a liaison between the owners of Schuler Books, Bill and Cecile Fehsenfeld, and herself. McCune lives in Ann Arbor, and made the introduction. As Rooney explained: "They visited the store in February, and we’ve been happily talking ever since.”
Rooney told PW that the dozen store employees will remain at Nicola’s after the sale is completed, and that partnerships with local schools and nonprofits will also remain in place.
One long-time employee, Bill Cusumano, recently left his position as the adult book buyer at Nicola’s to become a front-line bookseller at Square Books in Oxford, Miss. “He didn’t set a time to leave until he knew he wasn’t leaving me in the lurch,” explain Rooney, who took over ordering responsibilities after Cusumano left. “The fact that [Schuler] didn’t need a buyer was perfect. It was luck.”
Schuler Books was founded in 1982 by the Fehsenfelds, who met working at Borders Books & Music in Ann Arbor. There are currently three Schuler Books & Music stores in Michigan: its flagship in Grand Rapids; a location in Lansing; and a location in the Lansing suburb of Okemos. At its peak, Schuler Books operated five stores in southern Michigan, but closed two underperforming locations in Grand Rapids,in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Schuler Books currently employs more than 200 people.