Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Book Cellar - Chicago, IL

The Book Cellar - Chicago, IL

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If you want to meet a bookstore owner, here's the secret.  When you walk into the store, make sure you have a big courier bag (man purse!) over your shoulder.  Then make sure you have stickers on the bag from other bookstores like Carmichael's and The Last Bookstore.  Who else would recognize these but another bookstore owner like Suzy T. at The Book Cellar?  She spotted me within five feet of the entrance.  Introduction made, ice broken, The Book Cellar was officially entered.

Pretend you're trying to squeeze your foot into a really tight-fitting shoe.  This is what they have at The Book Cellar.  The difference is while the shoe might be uncomfortable, the tight fit at The Book Cellar is totally comfy.  This store is crammed tight with books, some sidelines, and a café.  I don't know how they would ever fit more into the store.  When you add a store full of customers in the café and narrow aisles, you have one tight but energetic bookstore.

This one-level store is located in Lincoln Square (not to be confused with Lincoln Park), a neat little area with a number of interesting shops and businesses.  As Suzy told me, the store does a little bit of everything.  The café has been one of the constants and was critical for the store when internet sales initially cut into the brick and mortars.  Besides the usual coffee shop fare you also get beer and wine.  This store hosts numerous author and book events as well as non-book events.  I think beer and wine at these would be huge for any indie that can do it (the strategy being, the more they drink, the more books they may buy!).  Suzy mentioned that it is important for them to expand their sales beyond the walls of the store by selling at off-site events.  They do this frequently at places like the Harold Washington Library, The Willis Tower, and local schools to name just a few.

I had a great talk here with Suzy and Riley, one of the booksellers.  I'm continually appreciative of the kindnesses extended to me on my many visits and this one was no different.  It was no easy task for them on this weekday afternoon because this place was buzzing with business.  It was obvious that one of the reasons for their success is strong local support, a common characteristic of successful indies.  And if you can't get to the store, go to their website and place an order online.

There are suburban Chicago bookstores featured in My Bookstore, by Ron Rice, but none located right in Chicago.  This one has been in Chicago for 10 years and if you haven't heard of it you're out of the "loop" (yes, this store is out of the downtown "loop," and so are you if you don't get here!).  Once you visit The Book Cellar, it won't be your last time.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Descent, Tim Johnston.  Recommended to me by Kathleen at Prairie Lights.  The first third of this book wandered a bit, just ok.  But then it totally kicked in.  Anxious to see if this will make any best book lists for 2015.  Family of four on vacation in Colorado and 18 year old daughter disappears without a trace.  What happened?  Highly recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Son, Philipp Meyer.  Looks good, we'll see.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Sisters Brothers, Patrick Dewitt.

Another exterior view.  

A great window display.  

A staff picks board for 2014.  Great idea!  

Looking to the left of the store into the café.  

Looking straight back into the store from the front entrance.  

A good selection of greeting cards.  

A great area to sit near the front window on the café side of the store.  

The is the check out area for when you buy your books!

My kind of seat in the back of the store surrounded by books.  

One of the aisles between the book shelves.  

Local book club selections.  

I thought this was an interesting factoid.  No idea if it's true.  

A great sentiment for every independent bookstore.  

Another nice place to sit at the end of this aisle.  

A few of the staff picks featured here.  

Some of the sidelines.  

Have some wine and then buy a book.  It will be all the easier!

With Riley, one of the fine booksellers here.  Thanks for a great visit!

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