Home Bookstore Changes are in store for Crazy Wisdom Bookstore in Ann Arbor

Changes are in store for Crazy Wisdom Bookstore in Ann Arbor


On the eve of its 40th anniversary, Ann Arbor’s Mad Wisdom Bookstore on Main Street could be sold or closed. Lisa Barry from WEMU speaks with Bill Zirinsky, owner of Crazy Wisdom, about her plans to sell or rent the local source of consciousness and spirituality.


Lisa Barry: Life always includes a lot of change, and it certainly has been, maybe even a little more than usual over the past year and a half during the pandemic. I’m Lisa Barry, and for book lovers in the Ann Arbor area, a big change is coming in a few months. And here to tell us more about it as Crazy Wisdom bookstore owner Bill Zirinsky. Hi, Bill, thanks for talking to us.

Bill Zirinsky: Thank you, Lisa, for having me.

Lisa Barry: As the owner of Crazy Wisdom bookstore, here is your first clue. What is happening?

Bill Zirinsky: Oh, well, we announced on Monday via our e-blast and on our site that we’re going to sell or shut down, uh, the Crazy Wisdom bookstore, the brick and mortar part, on the eve of our 40th anniversary and after a third of a century of possession the day after Valentine’s Day in February.

Lisa Barry: So you say sell or close, so there is an option?

Bill Zirinsky: Yes, we have an option. We will see what will happen in the coming months. Who comes to make an offer to purchase? What happens after that? We’re not quite sure yet. We will extend the Journal of Mad Wisdom, which we have been publishing for 25 years, both in print and online, reaching approximately 20,000 readers per issue. And over the past year and a half of COVID, we’ve improved our digital presence with the Crazy Wisdom Bi-Weekly Ezine. And that is now reaching eight thousand readers per month. And I think my wife and I, who are both in our 60s, are ready to look to new and different horizons. And we own the building. We own it without any debt. And so, we’re fortunate to be able to sort of see what options will present themselves to us over the next few months.

Lisa Barry: I think it took a lot of emotion and thought to make this decision for you and your wife.

Bill Zirinsky: Yes, of course, as you can only imagine.

Lisa Barry: Can you share some of them?

Bill Zirinsky: Oh, I think I shared them in the ad is that we feel like we’re ready to be detached from the hustle and bustle of a retail business. The business is open seven days a week, 360 days a year, and there is a certain hamster wheel aspect to the staffing and management issues of a retail business. As anyone who has owned one, especially a small one, knows, you know, a third of a century is a great race. And I’d like to look as I get closer to being 70 – I’m going to be 68 in December – at a different horizon. And we had our most profitable year in our history, and I thought that was a good way out.

Lisa Barry: Did the pandemic have an impact on your decision?

Bill Zirinsky: That’s an interesting question, Lisa. I think in some ways the transition was a threshold moment for a lot of people and businesses, ie a threshold. And when the pandemic started, we were closed for six months, and we closed the tearoom because we couldn’t run a catering establishment during the pandemic, especially one that was just kind of an ancillary party. of the company. And I think it was a relief for me not to have to deal with staff transitions and the complications of a tea room. So maybe it had an effect.

Lisa Barry: Looks like you got a glimpse of what life would be like if you weren’t running Crazy Wisdom Bookstore in Ann Arbor?

Bill Zirinsky: Yeah, Lisa, I also think we were already thinking about what a transition would be like for our family. We have a daughter who has just been bat mitzvah, and this was the first time in 27 years we no longer have any children in our house who is under 13 years old. We’ve had four kids, and uh, this is the first time we’ve been able to look to a horizon where we’re not going to be raising young children and taking care of young children. And so, it’s really more of a personal decision. The store is doing well. Like I said, we own the building, and I just sort of have it. I look forward to some of the adventures that I see some of my friends having – having these kinds of adventures – as they approach their sixties and sixties. We are both in good health. Thank God. We are feeling the benefits. We have felt the benefits of Crazy Wisdom for many decades. It has been an amazing experience for us and our long time staff to be a part of Crazy Wisdom. We know what this means for the community. We know what it means to have a spiritual bookstore and a conscience bookstore and fulfilling that role in the community has given me meaning and purpose in my life, and I know it has had the same. meaning and the same purpose in the lives of its longtime staff, uh, and I hope that maybe others with a vision, maybe younger than us, will come to us and want to take on this role, offering a safe haven for researchers in the region and for counter-cultural imaginaries.

Lisa Barry: Hmm. I don’t want to get into business too much, but you say you own the building and the …

Bill Zirinsky: Yes.

Lisa Barry: Is it possible for someone to come and say, “Oh, Crazy Wisdom Bookstore is for sale. I’m going to buy it and it will continue as is.” Is this a possibility?

Bill Zirinsky: It’s a possibility. I am not selling the building. It is not at all. No chance of that. But I would sell the bookstore and maybe someone would come along who wanted to rent that space and then keep the bookstore there, or maybe take the inventory and move it to a new location. Both are possibilities for me. I would love to see someone who still wants to provide an oasis for people who are looking into their lives psychologically, spiritually, holistically, and in terms of sustainability and conscious living. It would be very nice for me, Ruth and our long-time staff. Whether or not that happens, I really don’t know. In terms of the building, after many years of subsidizing our own rent because we own it, we’re not going to subsidize someone to rent the building. But we would really like someone to come and rent the building or buy the store.

Lisa Barry: And I don’t want you to feel bad because obviously this has been a big decision for you, and you recognize what Crazy Wisdom Bookstore has meant for this community.

Bill Zirinsky: Yes.

Lisa Barry: We’re just getting the news out now. Do you already have reactions from people? Because for me, it’s more than just a bookstore. It is a destination. It is an essence. It is an energy. It’s a place to go, as you mentioned, to enrich your life on many levels.

Bill Zirinsky: Yes, it is really wonderful. There have already been hundreds of likes and loves on Facebook and hundreds of reviews from people the store meant a lot. You know, you slowly build a store over decades, and our philosophy has always been to build the store one customer at a time. And during the years that I used to shut down the store and people still paid with checks, I saw all the places in the outlying parts of Southeast Michigan that we bring customers to. And we have a regional clientele, and I think we’re a unique destination, and it’s a very special place for the locals. And it’s really heartwarming to see the comments and the feeling of gratitude and how gratifying that has been. You better believe that Ruth and I are going to make a really great album for ourselves, so our kids can see what the store has meant to people over these decades. And, in the meantime, we’ll continue to publish the Crazy Wisdom Journal, which is, you know, a wonderful resource in itself for people who are looking into their lives and interested in mindful living. And so, we might even end up using the building for other consciousness-related projects. So, we are really open to what comes our way. And, yes, Lisa, the gratitude that comes out of it is really music to my ears.

Lisa Barry: Thus, the Crazy Wisdom Journal will remain online. Did you say that it would still be possible to purchase items from your online store as well? Or is it just the newspaper?

Bill Zirinsky: Then yes. We will continue to publish the newspaper. There are 80 or 90 advertisers per issue. We have our schedule. We have our e-zine. We keep our website, both for the magazine and for the bookstore. we keep shop crazy wisdom dot com, and we also keep the Ann Arbor Holistic Site, and we’re going to maintain and extend them. I’m really trying to free ourselves, Ruth and I, from over 30 years of responsibility in running a retail business, but the commitment to conscience is still there.

Lisa Barry: So, like I mentioned, change at the start of this conversation. Looks like there’s still a bit of unknowns on what will happen other than you won’t be running the store, Crazy Wisdom Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Bill Zirinsky.

Bill Zirinsky: But we know that we will continue to publish the magazine both in print and online, and we know that we will continue to be involved in this aspect of what we do. What exactly happens to the bookstore remains to be seen.

Lisa Barry: Let me personally thank you for what you have done and brought to the Ann Arbor area community and wish you well in moving forward and dealing with this great change.

Bill Zirinsky: Well Lisa, it’s very nice of you to say that and nice of you to call and want to talk to me.

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– Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or send him an email at [email protected]

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