If, as writer Neil Gaiman asserts in American Gods, “a town isn’t a town without a bookstore,” then the Grosse Pointes have been lacking for some time. In Grosse Pointe Park, Shaw’s sells used and collectible editions and Coreander’s specializes in children’s titles, but otherwise the area has been a literary desert since Barnes & Noble closed in 2018.
That changed recently, when Flyleaf opened on The Hill, a shopping district in Grosse Pointe Farms. Named for “the blank page, or leaf, that can often be found at the beginning of a book,” according to a plaque near the door, Flyleaf “is meant to be a conduit for bringing people and ideas together.”
The shop is the brainchild of budding entrepreneur Lindsay Scallen, who grew up in the area and remembers visiting onetime booksellers such as Waldenbooks, Borders, and Barnes & Noble, all now gone.
“Grosse Pointe needed a bookstore,” she says simply, so the former stay-at-home mom and avid reader set out to create one in a space once occupied by an antique rug shop. Her inspiration, she says, was the intimate feel of her home library, with darker colors, wood panels, and a fireplace. Modeled aftera New York townhouse, the narrow structure rises three stories on Kercheval Avenue.
It opened in August but looks as if it could have always been there.
That was exactly her intention, Scallen says. She blames “COVID and all sorts of other things” for the long and frustrating nearly five years it took to make her vision a reality and for the slow and complicated design and construction process.
“The building is only 20 feet wide, and we had to figure out how to pin it between two existing buildings,” she explains. The logistics were challenging. “At one point, there were cranes lifting limestone three stories up.”
Along the way, that vision evolved and Scallen decided to expand the initial offerings to include coffee, drinks, and light food, or, as Flyleaf’s tagline says, “literature and libations.” Besides coffee and drinks, the bar and bistro’s menu features seasonal small plates such as the daily tartine or quiche, crab cakes, and the popular steak tartare.
“We wanted it to be a destination, or an experience,” Scallen explains, “a home away from home, but also like a cool, cozy library.”
Inside, paneled rooms, original art, and, of course, lots of books give the space a clubby vibe. The classics-filled Reading Room on the second floor can be rented for book clubs or other small events. “I wanted three enclosed floors, but you can’t do that in Grosse Pointe,” Scallen says. Instead, the building includes 3,500 square feet of customer space, including two sales floors and a third-floor open-air patio where you can relax with a glass of wine or bite to eat when weather allows.
When it doesn’t, grab a seat on one of the overstuffed sofas or at a table near one of the three roaring fireplaces that were salvaged from New York’s iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel. Everything but the fireplaces “was custom-made for the space,” says Scallen, who worked with designer Mark Manardo of Perlmutter-Freiwald and architect Bill Baldner of Clifford N. Wright Architects, adding that “there was so much detail.”
Books include an interesting mix of the expected and the less expected, all chosen by managing director/shop manager Lani Martin. “In the beginning, we had a little of everything,” she says, adding that their selection has evolved as they have gotten to know the community. Recent bestsellers include Bonnie Garmus’ 2022 debut, Lessons in Chemistry, which spawned an Apple TV+ miniseries that aired this October, and Tom Lake, a coming-of-age story by Ann Patchett set in northern Michigan.
Scallen and Martin are looking forward to the holidays and say community response has been overwhelmingly positive. “There’s nothing else like this around. People appreciate that we’re here,” Scallen says. “Many say, ‘I can’t believe this is in Grosse Pointe.’”
Friends Trish Ament and Deborah Maiale were among those who took advantage of the Reading Room’s roaring fire on a recent weekday. It was their first visit, they said, but wouldn’t be their last. “It’s charming and cozy,” Ament said of the space. “The fireplace is inviting, and the selection of books is fabulous. It also has an interesting menu.”
The action heats up in the evenings, when the first-floor bar and the tables and comfortable sofas throughout become popular perches in Flyleaf’s newly constructed space: “We turn into a full-fledged restaurant and lounge,” Scallen explains. “Probably 90 percent of the people who come in [at that time] want to eat or drink. Some also walk out with a book, which is nice.”
This story is from the December 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.