McLean & Eakin is the epitome of what it means to be an independent bookstore, with its bespoke selections, heartfelt customer service, and lovingly-curated reading recommendations. However, owners Matt and Jessilynn Norcross will be the first to tell you that being “independent” isn’t about going it alone.
The store began in the care of Matt’s mother, Julie Norcross, who started the bookstore in 1992 and named it after her two grandmothers’ maiden names. The store had been a dream for Julie since she was young. Her father owned and operated a men’s fashion store in Florida and eventually followed customers north and opened another store just a few doors down from where McLean & Eakin stands today.
“Mom would take us on walks around town,” recalls Matt. “We’d peek into windows of abandoned storefronts, and you could see her waiting for just the right space to open up so she could open her bookstore.”
Matt worked at the family bookshop through high school and eventually returned to Petoskey in 2003 while in between jobs and started back at the family store. He found a place to reflect, as well, stumbling across his future wife, Jessilynn, who also was working in the shop.
In 2009, Matt and Jessilynn married and joined their futures to McLean & Eakin, as they took over the store’s ownership.
“We both love reading,” said Jessilynn. “But when you begin running a business, you realize there’s so much more to bookselling than the magic inside of the pages.”
The Norcrosses quickly immersed themselves in the responsibilities that come with owning a quaint bookshop.
“There are a million decisions we’ve made. Some good, some bad,” admits Matt. “But what we have always nailed is having a team of booksellers working here who are amazing, brilliant, and committed. This is what has kept us successful, for sure.”
Even with COVID-19 and the competition of big-box bookstores and online outlets offering steep discounts, McLean & Eakin has managed to not only stay in business, but thrive. It has expanded to offer digital audiobooks and e-books and established an online store to accommodate those who are unable to get out to the store or some of their committed patrons who may not be in the area year-round.
“We’re involved in our community,” said Jessilynn. “Amazon is never going to be at the school board meeting next to us. You can’t replicate the conversations we have with people in the community or on the shop floor.”
Books truly are magic, and never more so than when one person hands another a book after talking with them and saying, “I really think you’ll love this.” Ultimately, that’s the beauty of bookstores like McLean & Eakin—they may be independent, but still, they know that the heart of their business is a deep connection to their beautiful community.
You can currently get bookseller assistance via McLean & Eakin’s front door vestibule or by phone from 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Saturday, at 231-347-1180. You may also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact them via social media on Facebook or Instagram.
McLean & Eakin has curated a great collection of regional and Michigan authors who not only pay their respects to the region and its people but offer a unique insight into the beauty of the area. In fact, if you look closely, you may even see an homage to a favorite indie bookstore in the pages (hint: Check out “Station 11” by Emily St. John Mandel).
Here are a few recommendations for regional titles. For a more robust list, visit mcleanandeakin.com.
AGES 2 AND UP
Tallulah, Mermaid of the Great Lakes
by Denise Brennan-Nelson
AGES 8 AND UP
The Wild Path
by Sarah Baughman
by Peter Geye
The King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch
by Miles Harvey