Exclusive Interview: Underground Resistance, Submerge & Alter Ego:  Discussing books, vinyl records, Detroit’s unstoppable creativity and the roots of techno music with Detroit’s own CORNELIUS HARRIS!

Exclusive Interview: Underground Resistance, Submerge & Alter Ego: Discussing books, vinyl records, Detroit’s unstoppable creativity and the roots of techno music with Detroit’s own CORNELIUS HARRIS!

Exhibit 3000 Museum (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

I love Detroit. This city is loaded with great stories, many of which are oft hidden, unacknowledged, or underreported. If not inscribed for the future, when these stories are gone, they’re gone forever, like magnificent old buildings. To me, these stories are priceless.

The building at 3000 East Grand Boulevard is sign-less and unassuming. It sits near the Jam Handy warehouse on Detroit’s Eastside, within view of the stately 30-story tall Fisher Building.

This humble 3-story brick building was built in 1910 and is 8,790-square feet. It houses a significant contribution to Detroit’s cultural history, something vital and irreplaceable, a collective of Detroit techno culture.

Exhibit 3000, the world’s first (and only) techno museum is housed here on the main floor.

In the basement is the legendary Submerge’s Somewhere In Detroit (SID) record store and then upstairs is the HQ of Underground Resistance (UR). There are also recording studios, rehearsal spaces and offices.

Downstairs, DJ John Collins and Tyler Dancer are prepping the museum for a school tour today. Collins has been a well-known DJ since 1985. He’s a producer, manager, and talent agent. Tyler is a young DJ and producer from Kalamazoo who now lives in Detroit. Techno great Mad Mike Banks is also here getting things squared away. The ethic is: everyone helps out regardless of status.

Cornelius Harris (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

I’m sitting upstairs in a conference room with Detroit’s own Cornelius Harris, who was (and still is?) the only black manager in techno music in the world. “That’s what I’ve been told.  I’m not aware of any other black managers in techno, in the world,” he says.

Cornelius Harris is the label manager of Detroit-based independent techno label Underground Resistance, an assistant at Submerge Distribution (and SID), and founder of Alter Ego Management.

Cornelius is a deep thinker with a multitude of insights and very focused on all aspects of the intersection of culture and music. We are discussing books, vinyl records, the roots of techno and all-things Detroit.

Cornelius explains:

“History, especially local history, is important to know so you understand the context of where you’re at in the world and in your own time. The impact of certain points in history have a lingering echo long after the fact.”

“I’m originally from Ann Arbor. Moved to Detroit in the 90’s. I’m not here by accident. I love the people, the culture, the history, the music.”

“I consider myself a cultural advocate and activist, promoting agents of culture beyond mere entertainment and using it as a tool for education and inspiration. I studied Media and Pop Culture at University of Michigan. My family are all educators and very passionate.”

“Economically, how do you bring this thing that came out of Detroit and generates millions of dollars globally, back to the source? I’m always interested in the next stage of evolution. Detroit is a powerful music center. How do you drive culture in the city?”

 

Detroit: The Birth of Techno

“Belleville Three” Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May. These are from Belleville High School yearbooks (circa 1980 & 1981). Kevin Saunderson also played varsity football and basketball for the Belleville Tigers. Atkins (class of ’80), May & Saunderson (class of ’82). Thanks to Psyche Jetton at the BHS Media Center for allowing me to do research there (Ryan M. Place)

“Techno music was started in the early 1980s by four African Americans: Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May and Eddie Fowlkes. The first three went to Belleville High School and Eddie went to a different school.”

“At the time, it wasn’t called ‘techno’, it was just a new, emergent form of different music. The British press came up with the title ‘Belleville Three’ even though they DJed mostly in the city of Detroit.  Belleville isn’t known for its cutting-edge club scene.”

Just like any inception-story, there’s different mythologies about this. One is the facts. The others are the added interpretations, which become the agreed upon history. So, let’s just agree to a middle understanding of all this.”

“They were playing a precursor to techno before their music was given a label by outsiders. What they had created was inner city dance music with a futuristic vibe.”

In the mid to late 80’s, techno blew up here locally in Detroit. It was already a phenomenon here for several years before it became popular globally.”

Kevin Saunderson (senior photo 1982 Belleville High School yearbook)

“All of the techno labels were based in Detroit’s Eastern Market neighborhood.”

The first one was in 1985 when Juan Atkins opened Metroplex (1492 Riopelle St), then in 1986 Derrick May opened Transmat (1492 Gratiot), then in 1987 Kevin Saunderson opened KMS next door to Transmat.”

“Derrick started referring to Gratiot Avenue as ‘Techno Boulevard’.”

“These were the days of things like Channel 62 ‘The Scene’ and the Electrifying Mojo on Detroit’s WGPR, which was the first black radio station in America.”

“We also had Duane ‘In the Mix’ Bradley on WJLB Radio.”

“We had Jeff Mills, DJ Stacy “Hotwaxx” Hale, and there was Ken Collier who played house music at Club Heaven (19106 Woodward @ 7 mile).”

“There was The Music Institute (1315 Broadway an after-hours techno club opened from 1988-89).”

“Across the river in Windsor, there was Richie Hawtin (Plastikman) who was inspired by Detroit techno. By the early 90’s, everybody was getting turned on to Detroit music all over the world.”

Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit (c. 1988 vinyl record)

“Music popularity goes in waves. Techno got big globally around 1991, then experienced another resurgence in the late 90’s-early 2000’s, and a few years ago we had another wave.”

“Also, we had the techno festival, which started in Detroit in 2000 and was called DEMF before it became Movement in 2006.”

“Detroit is the smallest big town ever. Among creatives here of all stripes, mostly everyone knows everyone. Some of Juan Atkins old tapes even feature Kid Rock back when he had spiky hair and was trying to rap.”

“I credit Creem Magazine with symbolizing the Detroit ethos. Not being on the East or West Coasts, we weren’t bound by those scenes. There’s no restrictions here, we’re free to do our own thing, which Creem reflected in its coverage of music. “

 

Underground Resistance (UR) Detroit

Underground Resistance

Underground Resistance, aka: UR, is a collective, that’s the best word to describe it because there’s so much back and forth flow between the various groups and producers.”

“UR was started in 1989 by Jeff Mills and Mad Mike Banks in Mike’s mom’s basement on Detroit’s Westside near 7 Mile and Livernois. Mike and Jeff worked together before in a group called Members of the House. Mike had at one time been in a band on tour alongside Parliament Funkadelic.”

“The UR album UR001 had Yolanda Reynolds on it. She was the original third member of UR. A lot of people think of Robert Hood as the third member of UR, but he came later, though a lot of people forget that.”

“In 1991, the city of Berlin, Germany was hit by UR’s music from Detroit not long after the Berlin Wall came down. Detroit’s techno music helped unite the young people of East and West Berlin and reenergize the city. It was the soundtrack of what was happening in Berlin. And there were tons of Detroit techno records at the Hard Wax store owned by Mark Ernestus.”

Terrence Parker (photo courtesty of UR)

I joined UR in the mid 1990s. The Detroit Regional Music Conference, started by DJ John Collins, was going on and I was a producer at the time. I submitted to perform at the conference. The music showcase manager said I should give my tape to Mike Banks, which is how we met. I also had put together a zine called SCENE. Mike and Lawrence Burden asked me to work with them doing promotion. Mike later asked about me doing label management. I did it until 2001 when I became extremely burned-out.”

“I quit everything for a bit and became anti-music for a few years. Did some management at Kinney Shoe Corp (Foot Locker), then Kinko’s, also did some teaching at a middle school. Eventually, I created Alter Ego Management and started again fresh. Alter Ego used to rep Juan Atkins, Model 500 and others. Right now we handle UR and some others.”

“At the time just before starting Alter Ego I, got a call from Mike. He said they’re working on a project in Japan. He invited me to come work on it, and initially I said, “no,” but he said ‘they got those thinking gardens in Japan, you could just come here and think’ (laughs). I was in the middle of acting in a show with Plowshares Theater. Mike was insistent. So I went to Japan. I was there for six hours and decided to return as label manager in 2005.”

“My first time as a tour manager, through the Burden Brothers (Lenny & Lawrence), was a tour in Germany. I was tour manager for Aux 88 who was on their label Direct Beat.”

“I remember being in Berlin outside this club talking to a local dude, told him he should come check out the scene in Detroit. He said, ‘I’ll never go to Detroit.  I don’t make enough money to travel, but when I go to this club and it’s dark, and a Detroit DJ is playing, I can imagine that I’m in a Detroit club. That’s how I’m able to travel’. His explanation really stuck with me.”

“I realized that we’re giving people, people who are willingly giving their hard-earned money to us, these one-of-a-kind experiences. We owe everything to these people who make that choice to support the music. It really had a profound effect on me, gave me a sense of purpose.”

“For some people, music is their main outlet. It’s a type of therapy, a release for them, something they can’t get any other way. We all owe a deep appreciation for the fans who live on this stuff.”

“The clubs are social spaces where amazing things can happen. The 1980’s were rough in Detroit. The U.S. was in a bad recession, there was crack, AIDS, Detroit was dubbed ‘Murder Capital of the World’, the auto industry went to hell, etc. The one good thing at the time coming out of Detroit globally was this music, techno.

“These aren’t just DJ’s, they’re cultural ambassadors. They are some of the best representations this country has ever had, often better than professional diplomats. They tour extensively and as a result, acquire a broad perspective and deep understanding of other cultures and people around the world.”

Jeff Mills currently lives in Miami, France and Japan. In 2017, Jeff got the Order of Arts and Letters in France, which is that country’s second highest title, for his cultural contributions. Other nations seem to recognize the importance of creativity. The city of Detroit, our state, our nation, should consider providing more recognition to their own people. Why do we gotta go to France to get awards and be recognized? Why can’t it happen right here where it all started and continues to thrive? It would uplift the community in a positive way.”

Detroit’s global contributions are numerous. Back here at home, true community development is not just giving money to something and hoping for the best. Things need to be nurtured, cared for, and given the proper attention in order to develop.”

Submerge Distribution

Submerge (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Submerge Distribution was founded in 1992 by Mike Banks and Christa Robinson.”

“It was originally located Downtown at 2030 East Grand River Ave. However, in 2000, we moved to 3000 East Grand Blvd.”

“Submerge exports Detroit techno labels to Europe and the world and transmits Detroit’s techno music around the world. All the techno and house labels went through Submerge.”

“There is no ‘Submerge Records’, it’s a distributor and vinyl record store. We carry all kinds of records but primarily specialize in techno, house and hip hop. Heavily Detroit oriented. There’s also Basic Channel out of Berlin.”

“Submerge even put out J. Dilla’s first vinyl record in 1994.”

“Everybody who visits the Submerge basement signs the wall.”

The Impact of Books on Cornelius

Cornelius Harris (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

I love to read. Books are powerfully influential across all cultures, professions, whatever. Books are windows into the unfamiliar. Having a broad interest in a lot of different things gave me the perspective I have today.”

“Prior to music, I worked in the reference department at the downtown Ann Arbor Library from 9th grade through my time at the University of Michigan. First shelving books, then at the desk as an assistant. I grew up surrounded by books. A lot of my interpretation of the world was formed by books and music.”

“Here’s a few of the key books that have inspired me over the years.”

Black Magic (1967) Langston Hughes

Black Magic (1967) Langston Hughes. Chronicles black entertainment from slavery to the modern late 60’s. Amazing as a kid growing up with that book. It traces the painful lineage of exploitation as well as incredible achievements.”

Sex and Race (1940-44) J.A. Rodgers (3 vols.) I first read it at the public library when I was 10 or 11. Originally was excited by the name (laughs). Turned out to be a fascinating study of racial classifications, how people mix and blend and the fact that definitions of race are subjective.”

Dustland (1980) Virginia Hamilton. It’s part of The Justice Trilogy about an African American girl named Justice. First time I ever read sci-fi where the central characters were African American. It blew my mind.”

No-No Boy (1956) John Okada. The first Japanese American novel. It takes place just after WW2, it’s about Japanese no-no boys and post-war trauma in the USA.”

Los Arboles Mueren de Pie (1949) Alejandro Casona. Amazing book, written in Spanish. I recommend learning Spanish just to read this book. It’s about how you define family. Magical realism. Many intriguing twists and turns.”

Mumbo Jumbo (1972) Ishmael Reed. Magical realism about historical events and a contagious epidemic of the Jes Grew virus.”

New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (1988) Wolfman and Perez (DC Comics, Titan). They took this medium and crafted a story so thoughtful, warped, exciting. It’s about betrayal and abuse.”

 

Some Favorite Records & Why Vinyl Still Matters

Cornelius Harris @ Submerge (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“Musically, I listen to a range of different things. Grew up on jazz and gospel. My grandma from the had grown up in the South and turned me onto Hank Williams.”

“Some influential albums for me are:”

Prince-Dirty Mind (1980)

Jorge Ben-Samba Esquema Novo (1963)

Grace Jones-Nightclubbing (1981)

Ryuichi Sakamoto-Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)

Vinyl records still matter, still sell, still elevate the listener. There’s something special and different with something being tangible, rather than bits of information on a computer. To feel the grooves with your fingers. It’s an experience, you feel more connected. With vinyl you have to put the needle on it, make sure the needle is clean, flip it over when it’s done, you interact with it differently than you do a playlist on your smartphone.”

“Also, the order of the tracks meant something, not just random shuffling. Tracks are not just thrown onto an album indiscriminately. There’s a meaning in the order.”

Jorge Ben-Samba Esquema Novo (1963)

The Need to Preserve Creative Spaces in Detroit

Detroit aerial (photo courtesy of Formulaone)

Detroit needs more creative spaces. The value of the creative community to a city cannot be overstated. Creative people imbue spaces with value. And they almost always need help from the city to mitigate things like gentrification and help maintain safe and fun spaces & outlets, for other people to go and experience the gift of their creativity. There should be a low barrier to entry.”

People have had their life changed forever by music or art. Creativity keeps people in neighborhoods and stabilizes communities. Make it easy for people to access these things.”

“Right now, Detroit is a place where the creative community can go in any direction. As a city, we need to recognize talent and creativity and help engage creative types. Yet some of our greatest spaces are being ignored and disregarded. Detroit is loaded with iconic spots that should be preserved and used instead of being wasted unnecessarily. How do you set things up for success?”

“Listen, I’ve traveled all over the world for the past almost thirty years and I can honestly tell you that Detroit is a global nexus of untapped, undiscovered potential. It’s here but it’s disguised because it’s not often officially recognized by big-time funding.”

“We have the spaces, we’re just not doing anything with them, not making them accessible, and it’s a tragedy that’s rarely discussed. These places will get torn down and most folks, especially young folks, won’t ever even know they were there in the first place. We need to preserve them and do everything we can to drive more creative people to the city.”

The world is saturated with creativity in all forms from Detroit. I remember when I was in Japan, a promoter told me at the time he couldn’t book one of my DJs because Japan had too many people from Detroit there! (laughs) That’s how big and powerful our footprint as a creative class of people is globally.”

We’re givers not takers.  We give the world our creativity, but I don’t think we take enough a lot of times and it shows because it seems there’s always a financial struggle here for everyone. Culture comes from the incredible wonderful, people here. The people are the value. They should be embraced.”

Thoughts on The Future

Submerge (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“I don’t worry about the future of techno.  It will evolve.  Musical, creative diversity has to be encouraged. Stuff that doesn’t exist currently will be born and become transformational. Music is a reflection of that generation, that time, what’s happening globally and locally.”

“There is an undeniable need for space and a need to encourage openness. Hopefully Detroit will continue being at the forefront like it always has been. Don’t be afraid of the future. Yes, things will be strange and different than what you’re used to right now, and that’s a good thing.”

“Just remember, Motown was started by high school kids singing in their garages. They were broke but they were passionate and creative. However, what really changed everything was love from the local community. The community was supportive and encouraging. Local support helped them thrive globally. Never forget the enduring and positive lesson of Motown.”

Bonus: Cornelius’ favorite eateries in the Metro Detroit area

Pupuseria y Restaurante Salvadoreno (3149 Livernois, Detroit)

Yum Village (6500 Woodward, Detroit)

Royal Kabob (3236 Caniff, Hamtramck)

KG’s Grill (465 Inkster rd, Garden City)

Al Ameer’s (27346 Ford Rd, Dearborn Heights)

Cornelius Harris @ Exhibit 3000 Museum (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

UR, Submerge & Exhibit 3000 Museum

3000 East Grand Blvd.

Detroit, MI 48202

 

Exhibit 3000 Museum

For free tours or if you want to donate early techno artifacts

Contact:

John Collins

jcpremier@gmail.com

Cornelius Harris

cornelius@alteregomgt.com

 

UR

http://www.undergroundresistance.com/

 

UR FB

https://www.facebook.com/URundergroundresistance/

 

Somewhere in Detroit (Submerge)

https://www.facebook.com/Somewhere-in-Detroit-242400282479827/

 

Alter Ego Management

http://www.alteregomgt.com/

Submerge (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Submerge (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Exclusive Interview: Zubal Books in Cleveland has over 3 million books: Touring the family business with co-owner MICHAEL ZUBAL!

Exclusive Interview: Zubal Books in Cleveland has over 3 million books: Touring the family business with co-owner MICHAEL ZUBAL!

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

One of the world’s great bookstores sits in the Tremont West neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio.

Zubal Books has over 3,000,000+ books. It’s a solid operation packed to the brim.

If a standard book is around 300 pages long, that’s 900 million pages on average, thus, almost one billion pages are represented here. That is a fantastically staggering stockpile of the printed word. On a clear day you can read forever.

Zubal’s maze-like hallways are lined with books, containing a supply of brainfood even Methuselah or Henry Bemis would find seemingly inexhaustible.

At the center of this book-tsunami are the Zubals, a bookselling family of Ukrainian heritage.

The patriarch, John Zubal, started selling books in 1961 out of the family’s house in Parma, Ohio. In 1973, they moved to their present location, which is a complex of large buildings.

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

His wife Marilyn and sons Michael and Tom work here, along with his grandchildren. They’re an entrepreneurial family with decades of experience and rare expertise.

This skilled family has been passing down the book trade for generations, helping to enrich the world by supplying books to millions of customers. Yes, they’ve found their niche.

Eldest son, Michael Zubal, is one of the current heads of operations and he’s been kind enough to give me the grand and delightfully disorienting tour where your head is spinning with books by the end, there’s so many.

Aside from being a book hunter with an eagle eye for quality books, one of Michael’s secret weapons is his excellent memory and quick recall for obscure facts and figures and remembering which books are shelved where without having to consult the database.

Zubal’s is a well-oiled machine where everything is shelved by unit number and Michael & family are always on the go, filling up the outbound table with domestic and international orders and zipping around the store.

In 1998, Zubal Books closed to the public. For the past twenty years, they have sold primarily online and by appointment-only.

Touring the Zubal’s Spread with Michael Zubal

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“We were just on the West Coast for a week and bought 3,000 books. Then I went to Geneva, Switzerland to hang out with my son. I was surprised to find that Geneva is far more Parisian than Germanic. Also, our perch tastes sweeter here. Anyway, I think the jet lag and time changes have scrambled the circuits in my brain, I’m still re-adjusting.”

The total square footage of our operation here at Zubal Books is about 360,000-square feet.”

“Our 60,000-square foot four-story main building was built in 1925. It was a Cleveland Public Schools textbook repository, then a Lutheran publishing company for a brief period. There’s a massive freight elevator here and thousands of old wooden pear crates we use as shelving.”

“On top of the main building is a perfectly preserved circa 1954 apartment we call The Penthouse.”

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“The Penthouse has great views of the downtown Cleveland skyline and everything in here is from the 1950’s and in spookily immaculate condition (ie: furniture, appliances, grasscloth wallpaper, 3-sided fireplace, snail patterned tiles, etc.). It’s like stepping back in time. Anthony Bourdain visited us in 2007 and this was his favorite room. It would also make a great movie location. Every Friday after Thanksgiving, we play poker up here.”

“In addition to our main building, we have some attached annex buildings. One is from the 1890’s, it was previously attached to an old greenhouse. One of our recent (1978) additions has steel grating floors so you can see three stories below you. Another building features an old speakeasy with an in-wall pocket picnic table that folds out.”

“Then, a few hundred feet down the street, we have the 300,000-square foot old Hostess Twinkie factory, which has cavernous rooms filled with shrink-wrapped pallets of books that need to be processed (ie: priced, catalogued and databased). Hostess closed the factory in 1989 and we acquired it in 1994. It took us five years to hunt down the property owner. Real estate attorneys did title searches. Turned out it was a corporation in St. Louis that owned it. They accepted our first offer without hesitation.”

Prior to 1973, we had 5,000 books at our home in Parma, Ohio and about 5,000 journals and periodicals in our basement, garage and breezeway. We also had five small storage areas around town in sheds, converted garages, storefronts, etc. We even built a pully lift to transport books to and from the second floor in one warehouse. Finally, in 1973 we consolidated everything into this property and our operations have been here ever since.”

The Focus of Zubal’s

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

On average, we sell around 250,000 books per year. We specialize in academic, scholarly, obscure, out-of-print, first editions, sci-fi and technology.”

“We also deal a lot in physics, mathematics, history, art, philosophy, signed books, chemistry, engineering, occult, collectible bindings (Easton Press, Franklin Press, etc.), anthropology, and theology.”

“Our biggest customer segments are academia, scholars, post doc students, PhD researchers, think tanks, universities, and finnicky collectors.”

Acquisitions librarians working on collection development at universities also contact us.”

“In terms of buying books, we frequently get calls from academics approaching retirement and estates will call us before holding public sales.”

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“What I personally really enjoy handling and researching are Modern Literature books from 1920’s-1960’s. Prohibition Era to the Hippies.”

“The concentrations I specialize in are math and physics. I’m constantly boning up on bibliographies, histories and genealogies of modern physics. We deal with a lot of physicists and mathematicians.”

“My father is a trained historian. He almost became a PhD, but he didn’t want to be in academia, he wanted to sell books full-time. He instilled pride in us on efficiency and discretion doing deals.”

We also have a store of around 2,500 books inside the main building that people can visit. It’s a random assortment of clean, mostly modern books spanning a range of different topics.”

“For various reasons, I haven’t had a Book Scout for over six years. We had a regular Book Scout for twenty years prior to that. One day we sat down and analyzed the results. We were ultimately disappointed at his pricing scheme. It was not justifying our continued relationship with him. Smart guy though, great eye, he does the rounds.”

Michael on the Book Business

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The book business, like every business, has peaks and valleys. The labor involved is tough. Books are usually on the second floor of houses. The hauling and processing can be very time-consuming. I’ll see a load of books someone inherited, and they just want the books to find a good home. Sometimes there’s so much stuff that no money is exchanged because the values are moderate to low and they just want someone to haul the books away.”

“Right now, we have about 300,000 books listed online. Our main platforms are Amazon, AbeBooks, the Zubal website, then all the other websites we list on. We do hourly updates on all the site so that sold books are removed as quickly as possible.”

“Back in 1998, Dick Weatherford’s company Interloc (which later became Alibris) approached us. We started listing on Interloc, selling 1-2 books per day. Then AbeBooks followed, then shortly thereafter, Amazon.”

“When we became an Amazon lister, I would talk almost daily with Tiffany Linnes at Amazon. She worked directly for Jeff Bezos, that’s how small they were at the time. Since then, Amazon has acquired AbeBooks and owns it.”

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Prior to 1998, catalogs were our primary source of sales. Once the internet hit, we immediately realized it was a viable medium. We closed our physical store to the public after reviewing our inventory control methods. We found listing by subject matter was irrelevant. We buy and sell internationally, daily, and routing books to their proper location is incredibly time-consuming.”

“How do we choose what to list online? There’s no real method. On occasion, I’ll get a collection on consignment, which jumps to the front. Currently, I’ve been working on Engineering books. We spend a lot of time working with physics, math, engineering books.”

In terms of collectors, we don’t see completists anymore. Most people these days want specific titles versus wanting everything by a particular author.”

“Occasionally, we sell items via Heritage Auctions in Dallas. We sell maybe a dozen high-end items per year through there. We sold a Batman # 1 (1940) comic book through Heritage. It had no rear cover and still went for $8,500.”

Quick Bio of Michael Zubal

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“My father’s grandparents were from a farming village near Lvov, Ukraine, which is now in Poland, thanks to Stalin. They were hard workers who came here to work in the steel mills.”

I’ve been working with my dad in the book business for as long as I can remember. At six years old, I was working as a kid on Saturday’s. My older sister and I would haul and stock and shelve books for him. We traveled all over to Chicago, Philly, Washington, New York, etc. My dad would do the deals and I’d come along to help move stuff. Being fully immersed in the book world my whole life is kind of an oddity. Because of this, at a very early age, I found I had a more advanced worldview than my contemporaries.”

I did my first big deal when I was 18 at MOMA in NYC. I was buying books. Then I turned around and sold what I bought to a college. From that moment it was game-on.”

“I was also a state-licensed auctioneer for a little while. The auctions were quite popular, especially in the pre-internet days. We’d have 40-50 bidders in house and the auctions were fun.”

“When I’m not working on books, I’m playing bass in my jazz band, Slap Quartet. My brother Tom is also in the band, he plays guitar. We have another guitarist and a drummer. The name of our band came from dad. He said rock was a short-lived anthropological phenomenon (SLAP). We modified it to Simply Love All People. Been playing since I was 14 years old. We do mainly 50’s-60’s bop. My big influences are Miles, Monk, Coltrane and Mingus. I play a 5-string electric and an acoustic upright bass.”

Most books Zubal’s has ever acquired at once

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“The most books we’ve ever acquired at once were 85,000 books from the Museum of the American Indian Library in the Bronx, which was created by Archer Huntington.”

“It was a collection of Anthropology, Americana, Western, and American Ethnography. They sold it to Cornell University, which only kept 1,000 of the rarest volumes. Then Cornell called us. We ordered three semi-trucks and eight of us went down there. The eight of us loaded the trucks in two days.”

“Two months ago, I went to a house in upstate New York and pulled out 2,000 books myself from the second floor. Couple whiskies later that night, I was fine.”

Selling and Renting Bulk Books

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

1,000 books or more is considered bulk. We sell and rent bulk books mostly to movie studios, hotels, interior designers. Sometimes they just want certain color bindings to match the color scheme of a room or they’ll say things like ‘we need twelve-feet of books from the 18th century.’”

“Our books are appearing in the TV show Succession in the upcoming episode where the characters go to Hungary.”

We even help outfit booksellers who are just starting out in their careers with bulk amounts of books.”

“Also, we pulp poor quality books all the time. Fortunately, there’s a pulping facility three blocks from us.”

The Zubal Vault

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

We have an off-site vault of especially rare and favorite books.”

An example of some items from the vault:

– 1st edition Wizard of Oz (1900) $450,000; pristine like-new condition.
Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali (1969) massive folio where each plate is signed by Dali.
Boccaccio’s Decameron on vellum. It’s only one of three copies in existence. The binding and even the pages are vellum. The book was created around 1899 and is a modern work of art.
Common Sense (1776) Thomas Paine. At around $250,000, it’s the most expensive book Zubal’s has listed online.

Final Thoughts for Now

Michael Zubal @ Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“One thing I absolutely love about the book business is the thrill of the hunt. Never fully knowing what sort of treasures you’re going to discover.”

As booksellers, we must have a keen eye, know the material and be discerning. You have to know what you’re handling and the quality.”

“My dad is 80. My parents are gonna keep on going at it here. Will I be here when I’m 80? Hard to say.”

“As for customers and visitors, we do encourage people to email us their Want Lists. We will keep these on file and let you know if your book comes in. Also, I’m happy to give tours. They typically run 1 hour and 30 minutes. You need to email us in advance so we can set a day and time.

“I love the city of Cleveland. We’re currently seeing an explosion of new upscale housing in the city, which for the past 40 years was unheard of. The food scene is surprisingly complex and interesting. The art scene, especially the Cleveland Museum of Art, is fantastic. The people of Cleveland are generally friendly, helpful, laidback and polite.”

My brother and I have been in the book business for 40 years. After doing something for so long, you should get good at it. We were happily born into the trade. It’s a bonus in life to have a job where you handle the printed word daily.”

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Zubal Books
2969 West 25th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44113

Contact
info@zubal.com

 

Homepage
https://www.zubalbooks.com/index.jsp

Amazon
https://www.amazon.com/sp?seller=A3OI5MNY5V1ONO

AbeBooks
https://www.abebooks.com/zubal-books-cleveland-oh-u.s.a/581/sf

Alibris
https://www.alibris.com/stores/zubalbks

Biblio
https://www.biblio.com/bookstore/zubal-books-cleveland

 

Ryan’s Top 3 Things to Experience in Cleveland after visiting Zubal’s

Slyman’s Deli (3106 St. Clair NE) open Monday-Friday 6am-2pm; 216-621-3760; get the corned beef sandwich on rye with swiss, toasted, with 1000 island, mustard, mayo.

Slyman’s Deli in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Slyman’s Deli in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

West Side Market (1979 W. 25th Street) open daily 7am-4pm; 30,000-square foot market of food vendors built in 1912 with a 130-foot tall clock tower. If you see them, try the cotton candy grapes.

West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Garfield Memorial @ Lakeview Cemetery (12316 Euclid Avenue) 285-acre rural garden-style cemetery founded in 1869; John D. Rockefeller and Eliot Ness are buried here along with U.S. President James A. Garfield. Check out the Garfield Memorial. Open April-November from 9am-4pm, it’s a 180-foot tall 3-story monument. The coffins of Garfield (who was assassinated in 1881) and his wife are in the lower level.

Garfield Memorial @ Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Garfield Memorial @ Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Honorable Mentions:

Edgewater Beach (7600 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway) free, public beach; there’s also a greenspace, fishing pier and concession’s building; 11am-9pm concessions, 3pm-8pm bar; this area is located next to the Edgewater Yacht Club

Cleveland Arcade (401 Euclid Avenue) Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm; this Rockefeller-built indoor shopping mall from 1890 is a classy 5-story arcade

The Loop (2180 W. 11th Street) 7am-9pm daily; two floors of vinyl records and a café on the ground floor

Hingetown Pizza Mural (2817 Detroit Avenue) Mike Sobeck graffiti art located behind the Schaefer Printing Building

Hoopples Bar (1930 Columbus Road) open 2pm-2:30am; two-story bar with an outdoor patio in The Flats; great burgers and live music

Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Hingetown Pizza Mural in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Zubal Books in Cleveland, Ohio (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Exclusive: Touring the Detroit Institute of Art’s Research Library & Archives with Director MARIA KETCHAM!

Exclusive: Touring the Detroit Institute of Art’s Research Library & Archives with Director MARIA KETCHAM!

Detroit Institute of Arts (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is a 134-year old Detroit institution.

Founded in 1885, the DIA relocated to its present location in 1927.

Over 65,000 works of art, subdivided into 100 galleries, are spread throughout the 3-story, 658,000-square foot building, which, being made of white Montclair Danby marble streaked with gray veins from Vermont, exudes a very regal vibe.

Attached to the rear of the DIA is a beautiful 1,100-seat theater called the Detroit Film Theatre (DFT).

I’ve watched dozens of great films here over the years: Breathless, The Killing, Sweet Sweetback, Dolemite, Gimme Danger, etc.

Also behind the DIA, is the best place to park your car, the John R parking lot (5290 John R Street) where you can park all day for only $7.00 per car.

DIA Rodin (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Walking around to the front, you’re greeted by a version of Rodin’s The Thinker, a 12,000-lb. bronze sculpture of a contemplating man lost in rapturous thought, which beautifully sets the tone for your DIA visit.

Once inside, you check in and pay the fee or, thanks to the tri-county millage (property tax), if you live in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb Counties, you can enter for free any time you want.

As you pour yourself into the uniquely shaped cup of the DIA with its vaulted ceilings and mesmerizing sweeps of grandeur, you are immediately absorbed into a quasi-alternate dimension of one of the greatest art museums in the United States.

DIA Detroit (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Being at the DIA is very inspiring. You’re surrounded by gorgeous art and this immersion does something positive to your mood, attitude and thoughts.

Waltzing through grand hallways and great rooms, you encounter Egyptian mummies, Hindu sculptures, ancient Sumerian statues made of diorite, William Randolph Hearst’s collection of suits of armor, Diego Rivera’s entire room of Detroit Industry murals, and thousands upon thousands of paintings.

The paintings include Van Gogh’s 1887 Self-Portrait, the first Van Gogh painting ever purchased by an American museum, which the DIA smartly acquired at auction in 1922.

Van Gogh-Self Portrait (1887) DIA

 

DIA Research Library & Archives: 191,000 Volumes on Tap

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

In the North Wing, on the 3rd floor, the Kirby Street side, lays one of the hidden gems of the museum, the DIA Research Library & Archives.

I myself was unaware of the existence of this incredible resource until a recent BCD tour, thanks to Frank Castronova, DIA functionary and president of The Book Club of Detroit.

The library is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment-only.

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

It consists of the lovely Reading Room (open to the public) with its row of skylights and book elevator (aka: 1970’s-era dumbwaiter) & the Mezzanine Stacks (closed to the public), a secret sub-level between floors 2 and 3 where thousands of books are held. People can discover and request materials from the stacks via the online catalog.

I’m here meeting with Maria Ketcham.

She is the Research Library, Archives & Collection Information Director and has graciously agreed to subject herself to a kaleidoscope of questions and give yet another tour.

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Maria explains:

“Here at the DIA Research Library & Archives, we have 191,000 volumes, 100 journal subscriptions, thousands of bound periodicals and auction catalogs, and 7,000 cubic feet of archival materials.”

“In comparison to other libraries worldwide, about 30% of our collection is considered rare or unique to our institution.”

“Some of our archival holdings include thousands of photographs, blueprints, slides, color transparencies, oral histories, recorded lectures dating back to the 1970s, the business papers of former directors & curators, and an amazing collection of reel to reel recordings of our LINES poetry series (1980-1991) and our Jazz at the Institute series (1977-1987).”

“Our most popular requests are for information on the Diego Rivera Detroit Industry murals, the For Modern Living (1949) Exhibition, and Dragged Mass (1971) Michael Heizer.”

“We also have thousands of Artist Files, which are manila file folders containing news articles, ephemera, small exhibition catalogs, anything less than 30 pages long, about a particular artist and are especially useful for research on local artists. These are in our online catalogue as well as in WorldCat, the world’s largest online network of libraries.”

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The Archives serves the museum as a repository for anything DIA-related that has enduring historic value. We’ve begun digitizing some of our archival materials and early DIA Bulletins, exhibition catalogues and finding aids, which can also be found in the DIA Research Library online catalog.”

Some university professors bring their classes here on tours and we also represent at conferences and events.”

“On average, we get about 1,200-1,500 requests per year, mostly via phone or email from all over the world. Many researchers find us via WorldCat. And since this is a noncirculating reference collection, depending on the size of their request, we can often help researchers remotely, such as emailing them scans of relevant materials for their reference.”

“We get visitors from all over the world. We even hosted Japanese royalty when Princess Akiko from Japan visited last summer.  We were very honored that she chose to spend some of her time at the DIA with us in the library.”

Our library is in the top 10 largest museum libraries in the USA. The largest is the Getty Research Institute, which is the Getty Museum library. They have over 1 million books and 100 librarians. Some other large ones are The Met, Philadelphia, and Nelson Atkins.”

 

Quick Biography

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“I’m a native Detroiter. I grew up on the Northwest side near Joy and Southfield. A product of the Detroit Public School system, I attended Renaissance High School, then graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and later a Masters in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives.”

“Before coming to the DIA, I was an Archivist for Ford Motor Company. I used to live in the Alden Park Towers on the riverfront for several years. The “new Detroit” has changed drastically since I’ve lived here. It’s exhilarating.”

DIA Detroit

I have a library family. My husband is a librarian at a local public library. My two sisters are also librarians. One is a children’s librarian in California. The other is a senior medical informationist at a university medical school.”

I started working at the DIA in 2001 as the reference librarian. In 2003, I was laid off. Came back in 2005 and I’ve been here ever since.”

“I’m the only full-time employee overseeing the Research Library & Archives. James Hanks is our part-time archivist. We have 2-3 interns at a time, usually grad students in the process of earning their Masters of Information Science.”

The DIA Library is a True Community Resource

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Being a Librarian and Archivist is all about connecting people with information and being able to manage that information in a way to make it as accessible as possible. We acquire materials, provide access to the public, create indexes and inventories and more. Our mission is preservation for future exploration.”

The DIA has 7 curatorial departments. We support museum staff including curators, conservators, and educators, helping them obtain the research materials they need for their respective research projects.”

“We interface with a lot of people. We get information requests from institutions, artists foundations, big auction houses (Christies and Sotheby’s) about things like exhibition installation photos, fact-checking, etc. We assist where we can with research on artists, exhibition history, and provenance, which is tracing the ownership history of artwork.”

“We frequently get questions from people who have a piece of art they’ve inherited. We might be able to help them with biographical information on the artist and sometimes exhibition history, but we are unable to do valuations. The Appraisers Association of America can direct you to a qualified appraiser near you. There’s also DuMouchelles auction house in Downtown Detroit. These are just a couple of suggestions from the list on our FAQ page

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“Not many people know this but the DIA has about 700 puppets, it’s one of the largest puppet collections in the United States and one of our special collections here at the library is the papers and books of legendary local puppeteer, Paul McPharlin.”

“We also have a collection of Albert Kahn’s personal books. Lawrence Tech has the larger part, which is housed in its own dedicated room at their library.”

“In terms of new acquisitions, we acquire roughly 700-1,000 books per year.”

“We purchase books from a restricted fund. On average, I purchase 10-15% of the books, which are usually recommendations from the curators. The others are donated to us by institutions, private owners, galleries, and other museums.”

“Our older books are still catalogued in Dewey. Everything else is Library of Congress style classification. Our interns help update access to these older books in our collection by conversion cataloging to LoC.”

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“As an example of our books, we have Verdute di Roma (Views of Rome) from the Venetian engraver, Piranesi.”

“Published in 1835, this is a beautiful 29-volume set of over-sized folios, featuring etchings produced from his original plates, including his Imaginary Prisons series (La Carceri d’Invenzione). This was gifted to the DIA by the estate of former Michigan senator James McMillan in 1905.”

“And yes, in addition to digital offerings, we also still have the old index card catalogs.”

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Maria’s Final Thoughts for Now

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“I really enjoy working with all the different people, the curators, researchers, general public, giving tours, etc. As much as I think I know as a librarian & archivist, I find there’s always more to learn.”

“The challenges are coming up with creative ways to use what resources we have. There’s also so many hidden parts of the collection. I’d like to make them more well-known and help people discover something new, something they didn’t even know they might be interested in.”

“For about 90 years, the DIA used to have an annual Michigan Artists Exhibition. It stopped in the early 90’s due to financial difficulties. I wish the DIA would bring it back.”

“At some point, we might start a Friends Group for the DIA Research Library & Archives. I would like that very much.”

“This work keeps me busy. I still have about 200 boxes of books to sort through and catalog. This work is thoroughly enjoyable, I love it. Come visit us sometime and explore the collection.”

Detroit Museum of Art, aka: the original DIA Building (image courtesy of DIA Research Library and Archives)

Donate your books

 

The DIA selectively accepts donations of art and art history books & associated materials.

Contact

libraryadmin@dia.org

 

DIA Research Library & Archives

3rd floor

Monday-Friday (9 a.m.-5 p.m.)

Open by appointment-only

(313) 833-3460

libraryadmin@dia.org

 

Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals @ DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Homepage

https://www.dia.org/art/research-library

 

WorldCat

https://www.worldcat.org/libraries/46836

 

ArchiveGrid

https://researchworks.oclc.org/archivegrid/?q=contributor:7141&sort=title_sort+asc&limit=100

 

Map of the DIA

https://www.dia.org/sites/default/files/map-dia.pdf

 

Become a member of DIA

https://www.dia.org/membership

 

When visiting the DIA, what eateries are within walking distance?

 

Kresge Court (inside the DIA)

Located on Level 1, this beautiful eatery is designed like an open-air Italian medieval palace courtyard. They have coffee, wine, beer, liquor, sandwiches, salads, etc.

Try the Woodward Avenue Sandwich.

Hours: Tues-Thurs 9am-3:30pm, Fri 9am-9:30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4:30pm

 

Kresge Court inside the DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Kresge Court inside the DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Kresge Court inside the DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Outside of the DIA are:

 

Wasabi (15 E. Kirby, ste E) This Japanese-Korean spot is one of Maria’s personal favorites. Try the sushi and bibimbab.

Chartreuse (15 E. Kirby, ste D) Try the Cap steak and Madagascar vanilla pudding. Make sure you check the hours before coming.

Shields Pizza (5057 Woodward Ave) Try any of the pizzas and the dry rub wings.

Tony V’s Tavern (5756 Cass Ave) Try the pesto artichoke pizza and Tony V’s club sandwich.

Socratea (71 Garfield St, ste 50) Try the Moroccan mint tea.

Common Pub (5440 Cass Ave) Try the duck fat fries and the fried chicken.

Seva (66 E. Forest Ave) try the yam fries and the sweet potato quesadilla.

 

Bruegel the Elder-The Wedding Dance (1566) DIA Detroit

Copley-Watson and the Shark (1782) DIA Detroit

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

view from 3rd floor, DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)