Local store Booked, 506 Main St., just east of Chicago Avenue, changed ownership last week, with Evanstonians Abby Dan and Betsy Haberl taking over for previous owner Rachel Round.

Both Dan and Haberl were avid shoppers with their kids at Booked before they became booksellers at the store in the summer of 2022, when they first met. They both work as freelance writers and have degrees in creative writing from Northwestern.

“The last several years of owning Booked have been some of the most fun and joyful of my life,” Round said in a statement released on May 10. “It has not been an easy decision, but due to health and medical reasons, I can no longer run Booked in the way that it deserves. However, I am thrilled that Betsy and Abby are the excited, passionate and community-minded new owners. I know they will run the store with all the same joy it has always held and add their own twist as well.”

Abby Dan (left) and Betsy Haberl at Booked. Credit: Angela Renée

Round will stay on in an advisory role over the next few months and is currently mentoring the new owners, Haberl told the RoundTable on Wednesday.

Since founder Chelsea Elward opened Booked in 2018, customers have come to know the shop by its iconic “little door” for kids to walk through, and the bookstore has developed a reputation in town for its curation of children’s books and young adult novels, particularly in areas like queer literature. The store hosts a Dungeons and Dragons Club for transgender and non-binary youth at 4 p.m. every Monday (email eidalin@bookedevanston.com to join).

Booked’s small door-within-a-door is a beloved feature of the Evanston bookstore. Credit: Booked Facebook

The two new owners are also excited to bring their own flair and literary interests to the job. With the location being so small, Haberl said the selection available for purchase in-store is carefully curated and vetted by the entire staff, with the booksellers almost playing the role of “literary matchmaker” for customers.

“Abby and I have never been small business owners before, and there’s quite a learning curve, so we rely on the expertise and the mentorship of [Round]. And the indie bookseller community is a vibrant group of people passionate about what they do, so there’s very active networking all around,” Haberl said. “We’re excited about taking a very active role in the community in Evanston.”

The new owners are focused on expanding the store’s selection of adult books and continuing to invest in partnerships, weekly programs and special events. In the coming weeks and throughout the summer, Evanston bookworms of all ages can look forward to:

  • Small Stories for Small Readers every Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.
  • Special guest author and illustrator Lucy Knisley as part of the Main Dempster Mile Art & Craft Beverage Walk from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 18
  • A Booked tent at the Young Evanston Artists Festival from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 20, at Raymond Park
  • Pride Month story time with writer and activist Juno Dawson at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 24
  • Adult book club coming this summer both in-person and online. Email abby@bookedevanston.com to join

“The store will still focus on books for kids ages zero to 18, and our staff can help any
customer find just the right thing for that birthday or upcoming holiday, but we want Evanston to know that we’ve got great titles for grown-ups, too, that we love to read and love to talk about,” Dan said.

When the store announced its ownership transition last week, it also unveiled new Wednesday hours for the summer and a new logo, pictured below, featuring a nod to the small door at the store entrance. Booked will be open until 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, instead of the usual 5 p.m., so people coming from work or picking up kids still have a chance to shop during the week. That move is a “trial run” for the fall and holiday season, Dan and Haberl said.

The store’s new logo features its door-within-a-door.

“Booked is a place where books are treasured, and readers are treasured,” Haberl said. “Maybe that sounds cliché, but I think it’s true. Every day, we walk in, and we’re just really excited to talk about books because they’re so special. It’s a charming place to be. We have the tiny door for children, and it’s sort of like opening a tiny door and going into a bookstore is the same as opening a book. It’s magical, and it transports you.”

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Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. Congratulations to Abby and Betsy!!
    Wishing all Evanston readers and book lovers the very best future for finding “the good things that come in small packages” at this tiny book site.
    And many thanks to Chelsea Elward, for founding, and Rachel Round, for sustaining, Booked.
    Marti Ross Bjornson