Sunday, January 4, 2015

Bookends & Beginnings - Evanston, IL

Bookends & Beginnings -
Evanston, IL

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What do you get when you combine a librarian who speaks fluent German with a woman who is tough-minded, business savvy, an award-winning gourmet cook, and experienced bookseller?  You get a married couple who are passionate about selling books and embarking on a journey of ownership in an independent bookstore.  There's your award-winning recipe.  This indie has only been open for less than six months, just a baby.  From everything I can see, this is one beautiful and healthy baby!

Jeff and Nina are the couple that co-own Bookends & Beginnings and it is off to a great, well, beginning!  This one-level store is located in an alley off of Sherman Ave in downtown Evanston.  The location is the former Bookman's Alley, no stranger to books, but that store was more of an antiquarium.  This store includes new books, as well as used and "remainders" at discounted prices.  They have some sidelines including a unique line of hand-made jewelry from Germany.  You won't find this sold anywhere else in the States and only in a handful of boutiques in Germany, a great advantage for this indie.  They have a wonderful children's section that includes a weekly in-store story time and 25 foreign language books.  Evanston is home to Northwestern University and with its grad students, many with young children from foreign countries, they can come here to find children's books in everything form Armenian to Korean to Welsh.

Nina describes this store as "quirky and rustic."  I agree and would add it has a great bookstore vibe.  The store co-exists with a Barnes & Noble that is only a block and a half away, but it has a few advantages over B&N.  With the used book inventory, there is some depth of inventory with older books, published 20 years ago or more.  They also have the aforementioned children's section with books printed in 25 languages.  But lastly, their food and and cooking section is outstanding.  Nina knows her stuff in this field and is an award-winning cook.

The store is already well engaged with the community hosting numerous author events, able to accommodate as many as 90 people on-site.  They also offer a customer rewards program, a great program for frequent customers.  I think every independent bookstore should have some kind of incentive like this in place.

I know this store is only in its infancy but I have a great feeling about it.  It takes Jeff and Nina long hard hours here (as you indie owners know!) but they're pulling it off.  Many owners I visit along my journey think things are trending upward for indies.  Jeff agrees.  In his words, "We wouldn't have bought this business if we didn't think things were trending upward."  Thank you, indie owners, for believing.  Ok Evanston, I know this place is new but if you haven't been to Bookends & Beginnings yet, you're due.  Time to embrace this terrific independent bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED: Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse.  I don't know if this has been produced for the stage but I could totally see it.  Early 20th century British comedy.  Always wanted to read this author and really enjoyed it.  He wrote a series of Jeeves books.  I read the whole thing with a British accent in my head.  Delightful and amusing.  Recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Descent, Tim Johnston.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Weird Things Customers Say In Bookstores, Jen Campbell.  How could I not get this?  Looks great.

This is the sign you'll see from the sidewalk on Sherman Ave.  

Longtime location of Bookman's Alley.  Sorry for the blur, I was too excited to get into the store.  

From the front entrance looking to the left toward the back of the store.  

At the front of the store.  Sit in the chair and remind customers of store events in case they miss the sign.  

Recent releases in the front of the store.  

Find some of the staff picks highlighted here, located in the front of the store.  

A few CDs at the front counter.  

Nice display of the handmade German jewelry, available only here.  A great sideline for this indie.  

Boxed greeting cards.  

I love this display in the center of the store.  

One of the aisles between shelves looking toward the rear of the store.  

Discuss your next book club selection here.  

This is in the children's section.  Weekly story time held in this area as well as author events.  

A great children's section which includes books in many foreign languages.  

Nina & Jeff the fine owners at Bookends & Beginnings.  Thanks for a great visit!  

I strongly suggest a unique scarf to match the jewelry you'll be getting.  

My whole life I've searched for the Holy Grail.  I found it here!   Who knew?!

I think all indies should have a customer incentive program.  


  1. A fine report on a great find! You captured so much of the charm of the store. My 1st visit left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling of the future (rather than the cold, hard chill I get from the B&N toy store down the block - well really, you can't call it a book store any more). Thank you!

  2. Your observations are spot on, Phyllis! Next time you visit Bookends & Beginnings take a friend for a wonderful experience at an independent bookstore. Thanks for your comment and thanks for reading! Bob