Remembering the Borders bookstore in Novi, Michigan

Photo taken from dohaeng.com

Much like how I wrote about the CompUSA I frequently went to in the 90’s, I figured I should also write about the bookstore I went to for over 15 years, the Borders Books & Music in Novi, Michigan. From 1993 to it closing in 2011, it was the bookstore of choice for me. There was (and still is) a Barnes and Noble that was closer to me but I preferred shopping here due to the larger size and more variety.

Early memories of it involve me spending time in the children’s section of the store while my dad would look at computer books. I was absolutely into Star Wars as a kid and since this was the 90s and there were only three movies, the Star Wars books were how I could see more of the universe. I also occasionally checked out the strategy guides for video games while here, looking up any parts of games I was stuck on so I could go home and make progress. Another random memory were of the in-store music performances that would occasionally happen. One being of a woman doing scat singing in the center of the store with no backing music and my younger brother and I just being baffled by it.

Much like the CompUSA I mentioned earlier, it was located in the Novi Town Center shopping area, only a couple stores down from that. It outlasted that store by a couple years but it felt pretty obvious during that time that it wouldn’t be around forever. Much has been written about all the mistakes Borders made so I won’t go into those, but one of the signs for me was applying for a programming job at their corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor and then that posting eventually being canceled before I got to do an interview.

While it’s very unfortunate that there’s basically no photos of the store available online (I could have sworn there used to be some), there’s a few videos still up that show what the store looked like. This video of a car driving through the parking lot on the last day it was open shows the exterior, and there is a book signing with Dave Mustaine of Megadeth showing what a big chunk of the store looked like inside. There is also a video on the C-SPAN website of an author doing a reading inside the store in 1997, which doesn’t show that much of the store but is still a nice little 90’s time capsule.

There is actually a much better tribute to this specific store than this post, and that is on this blog here. It’s about how they essentially recreated that Borders in a room of their home. If I had known the store was selling off shelves and signs from the store when they were closing, maybe I would have picked a few things up. It’s an incredibly impressive job they’ve done with the room.

If you have any of the Novi, Michigan Borders, or the CompUSA and Egghead Software that were in the same shopping area, I would love to see them.

A Tribute to the CompUSA in Novi, Michigan

One of the goofier things I do on social media is run an account called Computer Store Visuals. It is an account where I post pictures of computer stores, mostly old ones, that I’ve found on the internet and have saved. I suppose I could make some sort of intellectual explanation why I do it, like I’m trying to preserve a part of computer history that’s disappearing. I guess that’s maybe true, but I mostly do it just because I like to look at old computer stuff. I don’t think things were better back then (they weren’t), but I do have fond memories of going into my local computer stores and picking up games and I have fun doing it so why not. It’s a fun excuse to post goofy pictures too. Once active and surprisingly popular on Twitter, I’ve moved it to Cohost and Mastodon after Twitter was purchased by Elon Musk and instantly became less usable. 

One of the stores I had a fascination with was my local CompUSA in Novi, Michigan. It was where I went to get most of my games from the beginning of the 90s until it closed in 2007. There weren’t many photos of it that I could find online except some posted in a Facebook group for employees from this store.  I saw that the Facebook group is now gone, motivating me to write one of the silliest things that will be on the website. Here is a tribute to the CompUSA in Novi, Michigan and possibly the only existing photos of this store online.

My first memories of the store are of seeing the game Superhero League of Hoboken being demoed on one of the computers when you entered, looking at the shelves of games, a demo of Prince of Persia 2 playing on a monitor, and a customer asking an employee if they had Leisure Suit Larry. It was also where I first saw games like Doom and picked up most of my adventure game collection. Whenever we went here, my dad would usually walk off to look at the computer magazines and books that were located at a section to the immediate right when you walked in, while I would run over to the computer game section on the left, try whatever game was being demoed that day, and then check out the aisles of games. The store also featured its own Edutainment area that had computers loaded with educational software and games for kids.

This was also the only time I ever tried the infamous Zelda games for the Philips CD-i, since this was the only store chain that seemed foolish enough to stock them and even have a demo station to play the games. Even at the time I didn’t enjoy them and was baffled by how a Zelda game could be so bad.

The store itself was in a shopping center called the Novi Town Center which also featured a Borders bookstore and Egghead Software, making it a nerd shopping utopia for me for most of the 90s.

For the last five years of the store, it was clear to even teenage me that the store was struggling. The industry had changed a lot and sales of boxed computer games weren’t as great in the early to mid 00s, even before Steam came along. CompUSA also waited too long to push their online store and had tried to pivot to being more like Best Buy, but with little success. The chain eventually closed in the late 00s and computer retail stores mostly don’t exist in the United States except for Micro Center and some smaller stores.

But I still have a lot of fond memories going there to pick up computer games and trying out the latest software at their demo stations. As promised, here are the only images I could find of the store. If you have any of the Novi, Michigan CompUSA, or the Borders and Egghead Software that I mentioned in the article, I would love to see them. If you would like to see more pictures of computer stores, I also post on Cohost and Mastodon.

This first batch is a set of photos from a Halloween party and people working at the store during Halloween.

These next two photos are of an employee that would intentionally make a mess while eating powdered donuts and apparently also walked around the store like this and would offer some to customers.

I have no context for the rest of these photos and they’re the only other ones I could find for this store.