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July 14, 2003 - Image 3

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2003-07-14

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NEWS The Michigan ogijy
VENDOR'S LIFE STORY AN OPEN BOOK

- Monday,'July 14, 2003-3

ByVictora Edwards
Daily News Editor
"His eyes how they twinkled! His cheeks were
like roses, his nose like a cherry ... the beard of his
chin was as white as the snow," but instead of the
usual bundle of toys brought by this mythical fig-
ure a table of books rests instead.
Many Ann Arbor residents have probably
noticed the only outside stand on State Street - a
book table run by Wystan Stevens. Stevens, whom
many believe resembles Santa Clause, has been
sitting outside selling books since 1994.
"We have a huge assortment (of books) at
home. I probably have 100 cartons with 15 books
in each earton. I've been collecting since I was a
teenager. I would collect huge amounts of paper-
back books that I would buy at Ulrich's bookstore.
I even wrote an essay about collecting books. I
started selling them out on the sidewalk in '94. I
thought I was getting rid of them but I (still) keep
collecting them. These are all books I'd like to
read if I had more time," Stevens added.
He said that he has started at least 100 books
while sitting at his stand. He adds sheepishly
that he usually loses his place early on and
throws the book down, never to finish it.
The native Ann Arbor resident said the stand
has offered him a unique view of Ann Arbor. "(I
like the) local color and sidewalk. It's a lively
town that gets livelier in the night. Sometimes
you see famous people. I saw Philip Glass and
Allen Ginsberg ... looking at the pictures on the
wall behind David's Books."
He added that they were pointing at the
picture of their friend Woody Allen.
"I really wish I had a camera then," he said
with a regretful smile. "I took about 75,000 slides

of books on a hospital gurney, walking with
the gurney from his house to his stand every
day. But because of a broken wheel he now
loads his books onto a truck.
One thing that hasn't changed is the price of
the books. Although his wife thinks he should
increase the price, Stevens remains staunchly
against the idea. "If I could afford it I'd like to
sell them for less, but most people are very
excited to find a $2 book," he said.
Though he said he recently suffered from a
heart attack, the book stand is something he
said is still up to his speed.
Many local people have patronized and
walked past the stand over the years.
"I've never bought any (books) but I've been
tempted. They always have a very good selection.
That's very interesting, the fact that he's on the
sidewalk. He obviously really likes books - out
here selling on a corner is a very cool independent
Ann Arbor thing," LSA senior Kristen Bickle said.
Ben and Jerry's Manager Ryan Woodard echoed
Bickle's support of the corner business.
"If he wants to sell books on the street he
should. I like to see people doing their own
thing instead of having a store and following
regulations and everything," Woodard said.
When asked what he would like to be
remembered for, Steven's gets a far away look
in his eyes. "I guess I'd want to be remem-
bered as the town character," he says finally.
The night surrounds Stevens and his book
stand as the summer breeze passes over State
Street. The stands future may be uncertain, as
he admits that every year he wonders whether
or not he will continue with it, but for now
Stevens sits perfectly content - his books
spread around him - an Ann Arbor fixture.

Wystan Stevens sits outside on State Street last Thursday night behind his book stand. Stevens has
been vending books every summer at his table since 1994, and remains an Ann Arbor fixture.
ofAnn Arbor, in total, in the 1970s." Cemetery. (We look) at sculptures and famous
Recording Ann Arbor has become more people and tell stories about them," he added.
then a past time for the book vendor. Stevens Stevens said University students are also living
said he used to be the official Ann Arbor his- history, as they have evolved over the years.
torian. As part of his interest in the city's his- "I graduated high school in '61 and from the
tory he said he wrote a book abut Northfield University in 1970. I was here during all the stu-
Township and Whitemore Lake. dent protests ... Students now are more casual -
Now, although Stevens' interest in history I got in just when they stopped wearing suits.
has become more of a hobby than profession, Women all wore skirts and sometimes gloves and
he recently was on a committee to put up men wore white shirts and jackets, but during
glass historical markers around town. He also protests it got real casual," Stevens said.
offers tours through the Forest Hill Cemetery. Stevens' book business has transformed as
"(It's) a three hour stroll through Forest Hill well. In the beginning he transported cartons

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