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Independent Bookstores, Part I

Last year, Roger Carlson closed Bookman’s Alley in Evanston after thirty-three years in business. Top Shelf Books in Palatine closed on March 7, 2014.

They posted on their Facebook page on March 3rd, “Well, the time has finally arrived for us to be moving on to new endeavors. We have finalized the last deal for our inventory and fixtures and we will be closing our doors on Friday 03/07. We want to Thank all our many friends and customers who have supported and sustained Top Shelf Books over the past 22 years. We wish you all the best!”

On a related note, last year, O’Gara & Wilson, Ltd. moved from Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago, after operating in the city for 131 years (100 of them in Hyde Park), to Chesterton, Indiana, where O’Gara & Wilson had previously operated a second shop. O’Gara & Wilson Antiquarian Booksellers was the oldest second-hand bookshop in the city.

There are a number of independent bookshops in Chicago, but perhaps no more than ten independent bookshops left in the suburbs. Twenty years ago, there were three independent bookshops in downtown Arlington Heights alone.

Many of them are located in western suburbs. Five of them are in DuPage County. The Bookstore has been in downtown Glen Ellyn for over fifty years.

Vic & Rosamond Du Jardin founded The Bookstore sometime before 1960 and in that year moved to its current location at 475 North Main Street. This brick building dates back to 1892, when it housed McChesney’s General Store.

Originally, The Bookstore occupied a double-storefront, part of which is now occupied by the String Theory Yarn Company, the address of which is 477 North Main Street. Rosamond Du Jardin was an authoress of young adult books.

Many booksellers are bibliophiles, but her husband was the kind of avid reader who did not want to interrupt his own reading to help customers find books. Instead, he would point in the direction they should look.

In 1973, Jack & Marguerite Rice purchased the shop from the Du Jardins. It was around this time that the bookshop was divided in half so the southern storefront could accommodate a record shop.

According to their son, David Rice, who served as manager, they hang up a sign that read “The Book Store – M. Rice – Prop. 1973” to harken back to earlier times, nostalgic for the stores where they had shopped in their youth.

He served as co-manager on-and-off in the 1980s. Jane Stroh became an employee in 1985.

In 1987, Marguerite Rice sold The Book Shop to Barb & Dwight Reed and retired. The Reeds owned The Book Shop for ten years and sold it to an employee, Jane Stroh, and her husband Tim, to operate a bookshop in Frankfort, Michigan.

She writes, “We are, however, much more than just a bookstore. We'd like to think we're one of those ‘third places’ that are vital to a thriving community, a place to meet and discuss current events, ideas and plans. We've encouraged generations of Glen Ellyn children to read and continue to welcome new readers to our shop. We've employed many smart, bookish teens, and sent them off to success at some of the finest colleges. We've been here for you for over 50 years, perhaps counseling you through personal troubles or celebrating your success by recommending just the right book at the right time. We make faces at your squirmy babies, we humor your tweens and teens, and we support your charitable causes. But most of all, we share our love of reading with the village we truly love. And thankfully, for over 50 years now, the village has loved us back.”

The address of The Bookstore (Just the Bookstore, Inc.) is 475 North Main Street, Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The phone number is (630) 469-2891.

Frugal Muse Books, about which I have frequently written, is an independent chain of three stores, two of which are in Madison, Wisconsin, and one of which is in Darien, Illinois. Frugal Muse – Darien (also known as Frugal Muse Books, Music & Video and as Frugal Muse Books & Multimedia Superstore) is located in a storefront with nearly 7,000-square-feet of retail space in Chestnut Court at the southeast corner of 75th Street and Lemont Road. It opened on October 15, 2000.

Frugal Muse sells (and buys) a mixture of new and used books, graphic novels, audio-books, CDs, and movies, as well as cards and bookmarks. They can special order books and audio-books generally for 20% off the list price and offer a discount on used books for teachers, homeschoolers, and librarians.

The address for Frugal Muse is 7511 Lemont Road, Suite 146, Darien, Illinois 60561. The phone number there is (630) 427-1140.


Happy Independence Day, Eamon, Nina, and Kennedy Faith! Uncle Sean loves you.

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