Common Language Bookstore to Close

Jason A. Michael
By | 2018-11-14T16:06:51-04:00 November 14th, 2018|Michigan, News|

They held out as long as they could. Keith Orr and Martin Contreras, owners of Common Language Bookstore in Ann Arbor, recently announced that they plan to close their feminist, LGBTQ store at the end of the year. The announcement comes after years of dwindling sales that they attribute at least in part to internet sales and the rise of online giant
“The last decade has been especially challenging to maintain Common Language and each year to a greater degree,” said Orr and Contreras in an online letter posted to the store’s website. “Sadly, it is no longer possible to continue to fight the market pressures, which have challenged the bookstore. As we approach retirement, we are no longer able to sustain the bookstore.”
Orr and Contreras, who also own LGBTQ-friendly Aut Bar and the converted house that is home to the Jim Toy Community Center, built a little gay haven in the historic Kerrytown district of Ann Arbor. Now, as the couple looks to retire and sell both the building that Common Language has done business in for the past 15 years, as well as the one that’s home to the community center, the fate of gay-friendly refuge is uncertain.
“We created a little gay center here,” Orr told the Ann Arbor News. “There’s definitely a sense that (Kerrytown) is the LGBT neighborhood of downtown Ann Arbor. I don’t know how that’s going to change over the years, but change happens.”
A Local Tradition
Common Language first opened on Fourth Street in 1991. After a short time, the store was acquired by Kate Burkhardt and Lynden Kelly who ran the business until they retired in 2003.
“We purchased Common Language because it was a such an important resource to us, and we knew it was a vital resource for the LGBT community as well,” said Orr and Contreras in their letter. “We know that this continues to be true, especially in this period of political and cultural upheaval. This is our greatest regret in announcing our decision.”
Common Language, one of only about a dozen LGBT bookstore left in the country, will close for good on Dec. 31. Orr and Contreras hope to sell as much inventory as possible before then. As of now, nearly all the merchandise in the store is 20 percent off and greater discounts will apply as the closing draws nearer. Orr and Contreras are considering keeping an online presence for the store after the physical location closes.
To find out more about the store, visit, call 734-663-0036 or visit in person at 317 Braun Court in Ann Arbor.

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.