Bookends & Beginnings “secret” location in Bookman’s Alley. Credit: Submitted

Bookends & Beginnings announced Tuesday, Nov. 15, that it will be moving to a different downtown Evanston location. In the bookstore’s newsletter, owner Nina Barrett shared that the store will leave the “iconic alley and newer Sherman Avenue locations” and move to 1620 Orrington Ave.

“This move was not entirely of our own choosing,” the statement said. “A new owner of the alley property demanded a rent increase so dramatic that remaining where we are became unsustainable for us. We feel very thankful that the original affordability and legacy of our iconic Bookman’s Alley space allowed us to incubate and curate a store that, in less than a decade, has come to be recognized as ‘an Evanston institution’ and now attracts national recognition for its literary identity.”

Barrett expressed hope the store can remain at the current site through the holiday season and then move into the new site, which previously housed La Macchina Cafe, an Italian restaurant. 

In a conversation this afternoon, Barrett talked about the struggle of renting in downtown Evanston, where rents are rising to the level that she believes only large national chains can afford to pay.

“Small businesses are what make one town different from another town. Having small businesses gives a town personality and gives it character,” she said. “It is very difficult when you are the owner of a small business. You take a ginormous risk, because you personally sign an individual guarantee that you will pay thousands of dollars to pay the lease even if your business does not go well.” 

She pointed out that Central Street and Main Street in Evanston have lower rents, which in turn allows for small business to have more affordable expenses, but that the increased foot traffic and the proximity to the university were too important for Bookends & Beginnings to pass up on a downtown location. 

She noted the challenge for independent bookstores against the convenience of people ordering books on Amazon.

“We have to make a value proposition,” she said. ”We ask you to pay the full price for the book, but the reason to pay it is because Amazon is not a cozy independent bookstore in your town, where you can come and browse, where you can take your kids for story time. We have to make this abstract value proposition to our customers all the time.”

Starbucks on Central Street update

Starbucks at 2114 Central St. is scheduled to close Nov. 27, a media representative for the company said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. Employees will have the opportunity to move to other stores, the spokesperson said, but this outlet is closing because “Starbucks likes to evaluate our store portfolio” and the store “wasn’t meeting the needs of that community.”

Isabelle Reiniger

Isabelle Reiniger, LCSW is a writer and psychotherapist in private practice in Evanston. She reports on local businesses opening and closing for the Evanston RoundTable. Reach Isabelle at isabelle.reiniger@me.com.

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  1. It is sad to me that the City of Evanston doesn’t seem to value the existence of small business owners. Not only are rents very high, especially in the downtown area, but people aren’t encouraged to shop in Evanston because of the parking restrictions. There has been a lot written lately about the Pay to Park existence in Evanston, which requires shoppers to make a commitment to spending X amount of time and $$ when they shop here. Other suburbs do not require the same commitment. Can’t there be certain areas in the City that are free during certain hours, or have meters that allow shoppers to have 10-30 minutes for a minimal charge? I would appreciate getting some accurate responses to my questions.
    I have been a resident of Evanston for over 45 years, and miss the long gone days of having a multitude of shops and restaurants at our choosing.

    1. I agree with you 100% about small businesses. I’m frustrated with places I frequently visited are now out of business. At times I wonder why should I go downtown at all.
      Pat Harris

  2. I am deeply saddened by the move Bookends feels forced to make. That alley space has been an iconic space for book lovers for decades. It’s unique, it has a wonderful feel to it, and Bookends turned it into a top notch indie store in just a short amount of time. I recently read one of my picture books at a family story time they held in October there and the setting, the mood, and the history in that space made for a special, cozy experience for everyone who attended (and for me). Nina is right – Amazon can not and will never be able to offer communal experiences like the one I shared with others in her store in October. And it’s these communal experiences that build and sustain our community. Major corporations will never care about and can never be truly responsive to the character and identity of local communities. And the money savings they provide are only short-term, only profit-driven. So Amazon can offer books at a few bucks off the list price. What would you pay to make sure your community doesn’t lose small, independent businesses where you can shop for unique items responsive to our community’s interests, run into friends, share story time with your kids, browse a beautifully and knowingly curated collection of merchandise, and know the owners who are usually your neighbors? I know for me it’s a hell of a lot more than the chump-change savings I get when I click click click through Amazon to get some books. What’s worse, Amazon uses cheap books to lure customers to the site to buy other stuff. That’s always been their model. And it’s a model that hurts our communities.

    I will be shopping at the new Bookends – and I trust Nina & Co are going to make the new space a great one – but I won’t pretend another downtown landlord hasn’t ruined another special corner of what could be a thriving, unique, and festive downtown.

  3. Why are rents so high for businesses in downtown Evanston with so many shuttered shops? Interest rates are high, but commercial landlords even before the recent rate upticks have seemed more content with leaving their properties vacant than working with existing tenants. Perhaps they are looking to strongarm our community into changing the zoning for their properties so they can sell them to highrise developers?