What is your official title?
Owner of the Michigan News Agency. We are a local, independent bookstore, magazine store, and newsstand in downtown Kalamazoo.
What’s an average day in the ‘Zoo look like for you?
I am here at 6:30 every morning, and the store opens at 7:00. We keep no money in the store because we don’t need a situation where we ask people to come in when the doors are locked. We were broken into in 2009, and since then I’ve learned to take the money out each night. I bring the money back into the store at 6:30am each morning.
I usually work until 7:00 at night in the store; a regular day for me is 15 to 18 hours because after I’m done working in the store, I do the bookkeeping. I do payroll weekly, because it’s easier for the kids to manage their finances. I do that till 8:00 or 9:00pm. But I love it! Little stores like this need to have a guiding spirit who really loves what she is doing. I don’t see it as a chore. When I get to work on counter and work with our customers is my favorite time at the store.
What is the history of the Michigan News Agency?
My stepfather began the Michigan News Agency in 1947, and his name is Vincent Malmstrom. I was adopted by him. My mother, my sister, and I married the man we called “Mr. Vince” in 1948. The story goes that he brought us into the store to convince my mother to marry him, and when we came into the store I said, “WOW, this is the best place I’ve ever seen in the world, let’s marry this man!”
So that’s how we began. He started the store in ’47, and it was a wholesaler, and he convinced his father-in-law at the time to let him have the first 25 feet to run a store. That’s how he was made, and he encouraged me to be made the same way. In the beginning it was a newsstand. It only had about 50 magazines and 25 different books. We are now up to being 75 feet long, and we have over 7,500 individual titles. We only do paperbacks here, and I order every week. We’ll special order hardcovers for our customers, and we have people who support us and buy all of their books – both hard and paperback – from us, so that they can have the Michigan News here when they want to come and buy something.
We have over 7,000 magazine titles, ranging from two copies up to 100 copies. For instance, on Tuesday we’ll have 100 copies of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. We do a feature magazine of the week on a page of our website, michigannews.biz. Right now it’s all the baseball magazines. We have the Tigers’ pocket schedules on the counter, and we are great supporters of the Detroit Tigers.
Over the years, the store got progressively more busy, and it got bigger. The problem is that newspapers are now being read online. We’ve lost a lot of distributors in terms of newspapers. The Michigan News used to receive newspapers like the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, and lots of local small town newspapers. But now people have to read all of that on the Internet.
It’s too bad, I think it’s a cultural loss. To hold a newspaper in your hand, to mark it up, to carry it around, to share it with a friend, to put it on the refrigerator door, to remind yourself of the recipe you’re going to make later, that’s all a piece of America that I value very much, and I think we’re losing that. But now, the game is to run as fast as you can, so I run 100 hours a week to keep up with it all.
What about your history? What is your background?
My history in terms of myself was that I was born in Baguio in the Philippine Islands. At age two, my sister was six, we became Prisoners of War in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp, which was a Japanese internment camp in the Philippines. The Philippines were bombed the day after Pearl Harbor and by that Christmas, the “Foreign Nationals”, which is what we were all called, the Americans who were caught in the Philippines, were in Santo Tomas Internment Camp and spent three years and two months there.
While I was there, I slept in a room with 33 other people. There was not enough room in the rooms to walk. I stood in line with what were called food cards starting at about age three; I could hold six cards and a place in line, so that was my job. That’s where I learned how to read. Santo Thomas before the war was a Catholic school, and they still had a lot of their books. So I picked out books with large pictures and large print and learned how to read by the people in front and behind me in that line helping me to sound the words out. I learned how to spell by writing in the sand, and that was my first classroom. I didn’t go to school until I was seven years old.
It was the first of many times that I learned that if you could just go into the world of books you could escape the horror around you, and that’s why I treasure the Michigan News Agency. I learned that the other choice I had was to be dead; there was torturing going on, and the Japanese were mean captors. The way I succeeded in not being overwhelmed by all of the things going on around me was to choose to teach myself all of these different things that were available for me to learn.
We came on a Navy transport back to the United States, and we were in Hawaii for six months while we recovered. My mother, sister and I lived in California for a year, and during that time we found we were being taken advantage of financially by my uncle. Another uncle, who lived in Kalamazoo, came out to California and rescued us from the situation we were in.
Kalamazoo was the first time that I felt safe. This beautiful town is the beginning and end of my life. When we first moved to Kalamazoo, my mother was writing copy at WKZO; she had a Masters degree in Latin from Washington University. She then started teaching English at Western Michigan University, received her PhD from the University of Minnesota, and became the first full time female professor in the English department at the university. I attended Kalamazoo Central, and went on to the University of Michigan where I got my degree in English with a minor in History and Natural Science.
I met my husband, Dick Hauck, at the Michigan News Agency; he was my mother’s favorite student, so he came to work for my dad. And of course, that means I have to like him or not, and it turned out that I came to love him, and still do.
I went through the University of Michigan on the Junior GI Bill, so my schooling along with my room and board were paid for. I also have twenty hours of education – I’m a certified high school teacher. I taught high school for 10 years in Illinois while Dick was getting his PhD. I got my Masters Degree from the University of Illinois in British and American Literature.
From there we moved to Seattle, Washington, where Dick had his first job as an assistant professor at the University of Washington. Seattle is also where our two daughters, Margaret and Sarah were born. We moved around after that from Pensacola, Florida, up to Bloomington, Indiana. I returned to Kalamazoo in 1988, and my dad was willing to teach me the store.
The Michigan News is more than a bookstore. We are dedicated to being part of an enlightened community. When I got back to Kalamazoo after all of those years being away, there were eight bookstores in the downtown area. Now, we’re the only one that’s left. Kalamazoo continues to reinvent itself and we are trying to meet the needs of our customers.
What do you love most about Kalamazoo?
The Michigan News Agency. It’s a cultural haven; it’s a treasure. We love our people here, and we love to support them. We actually have what we call a ‘Famous Friends Board.’ When somebody comes in and buys extra copies of the newspaper, we ask them if they’re in it, and we have them sign a copy and it goes up on the board. Then, we have people come into the store and go, ‘Hey, I know that person!’ It’s great fun, and it knits us all together.
I like the restaurants down here. We recommend them all; Studio Grill next door to us has been here for four years, and they’re kind enough to say that the reason that they see so many people is because they are right next to us. On the other side is a hair salon, Blue 302. I own the building, and I rent that space out to my friends, and it’s fun to have them next door.
What can be done to improve our beloved Kalamazoo?
I’m one of those people who thinks there is a way to have the festivals and the downtown entertainment and have people living down here. I think there are ways to make compromises with the noise levels, because if we don’t have that attraction in the community, we’re not going to be able to keep the young people here. If there’s nothing to do after 10:00pm, then we’re not going to survive as a community and we’re going to become old and gray.
I think it would be very interesting to have the streets be both ways. It’s almost impossible to get around down here and when the I-94 business loop is rushing past our businesses, there’s no way for people to know what we have here. We were here when it was two-way, and our business was hurt very much when it turned into one-way streets. That whole situation, at least if we can make it a safer, slower pace, that’s another thing I’d like to see downtown have.
I’d also like to see downtown encourage people to live down here and become a part of this community. I do book reads here at the store, and it would be wonderful fun if people who lived down here could walk around the area and drop into the store and hear a local author’s readings. It’s about enriching a community. I am very pleased with the number of new craft breweries we have down here, though! It’s been marvelous fun!
What have you been jammin’ to recently? What’s on the iPod?
Everything. I very much like classical music, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, but I also listen to a whole eclectic mix of Madonna, Stevie Nicks, and Lady Gaga. I think that days are too long if you don’t have music. I get to the point where I’m too tired to work, but if you put on something like, my favorite, Emmylou Harris, it picks you up and carries you on.
How do you take your coffee?…or do you?
Oh yes I drink coffee. I take it with cream. I get up and drink my coffee in the morning. I don’t drive my car without breakfast and a cup of coffee. I trade newspapers for another cup of coffee with Studio Grill, and I try to only drink four cups a day – two before I get downtown, and two while I’m here. I try to have my last cup by 1:00pm.
Do you have a “go to” spot in Kalamazoo?
I really like all of the restaurants; I wouldn’t be able to choose just one. I love them all. There are about 10 different ones that I frequent as much as I can, and I think they just do a marvelous job. That’s a very fine drawing point for downtown. I would wish that people would come downtown and cruise the stores and then stay and eat dinner.
If you had to pick one magazine in the store that was your favorite, what would it be?
The New Yorker. The reason why is that it has so much! There are so many different parts of it. I do love the movie and book reviews. The stuff in the beginning, the paragraphs, the detailed reporting they do on very significant issues, the variety and mind expanding stories are marvelous. Not to mention, the cover art is funny and current.
If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
I don’t know if I would give my younger self any advice, just because of my early history; I think my situation was quite different from most kids growing up during that same time. From the beginning, I had to figure out what would be best for my survival, and I taught myself how to do that.
I have a very analytical mind, and when I have a situation, I have to look at it from several different perspectives – what is the best way to handle this, what is the zaniest way to handle this, how would my mother handle this, how would I have handled this 10 years ago – and then I don’t do anything about it. Instead I take a shower and go to bed. The answer often comes to me during the night. I consider many different concepts to occupy my mind, or the memories of those awful years will creep in. This is what I have taught myself to do ever since I was little. I’ve learned to make my mind work in a certain way, and had I not, I don’t know if I would be here.
Dean, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Keep up with Dean and the Michigan News Agency on facebook. Also, be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter for updates.