City of Detroit threatens John K. King bookstore over building banners

John K. King Used & Rare Books with two banners in downtown Detroit.  Steve Neavling/MCM
John K. King Used & Rare Books with two “illegal” banners in downtown Detroit. Steve Neavling/MCM

A banner on the hulking warehouse in downtown Detroit proudly boasts of the bookseller’s international reputation: “Named #2 book store in the world by Business Insider.”

Another banner reads: “Named one of the world’s coolest bookstores.”

But the iconic John K. King Used & Rare Books is violating a city ordinance for failing to get a permit to hang the banner on its building along W. Lafayette, according to a letter from Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration.

If the banner isn’t removed by midnight tonight, the letter warns that the city may take legal action.

The Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) made similar threats to property owners over murals along the popular Grand River Creative Corridor in October before Mayor Duggan backed down.

Mayor Duggan’s office said the city has tried to work the book store, giving them an extension of nearly two months to remove the banners or pay $268 for an inspection fee.

“BSEED has been very flexible with Mr. King,” Mayor Duggan spokesman John Roach told Motor City Muckraker. 

With about 1 million books, the beloved bookstore boasts “one of the largest and strangest collections in North America,” according to online magazine Salon.

The bookseller, which first opened in Dearborn in 1965, moved into its current building in 1983.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.