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Book Club
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Profiles Wed Apr 27 2011

Bookstore Profile: The Book Cellar

Name: The Book Cellar
Location: 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave.
Books: Books and magazines (every genre), local author section, cafe and bar
New/Used: New books; e-books
Website: http://www.bookcellarinc.com
History: Opened in 2004

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Since 2004, the Book Cellar has been an integral part of the Chicago literary scene. They host events and book clubs almost every night, from a weekly childrens' story hour to the LGBT-friendly Essay Fiesta once a month. They recently hosted a reading party for the posthumous release of David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, which attracted a crowd of around 100. Fans of Gapers Block may remember The Book Cellar from such events as the Gapers Block Book Club (which is still going strong, by the way, but it's now a quarterly affair. Meet us at the Book Cellar on June 30 to discuss Paul Hornschemeier's Life With Mr. Dangerous!).

In the age of e-books and online stores, The Book Cellar had a 5% growth in sales last year. In addition to the above events, they're foot traffic friendly in a great neighborhood, feature a cafe and are the only book store in Chicago with a liquor license, featuring 24 types of wine and about 10 different beers.

The Book Cellar was started by Suzy Takacs, the store's "owner, manager, light bulb changer, sandwich maker, book orderer, etc." A former nurse practitioner, she says "I have always been an avid reader. When I was growing up, it was difficult for my mother to keep enough unread books in the house for me. One night [several years ago] some friends were staying with us when they were rehabbing their house. We were all in the basement watching You've Got Mail and I said that I should get out of the rat race and work in a book store. My husband said the same." So she did her homework, checked demographics, met with local aldermen and chambers of commerce, and made her dream of opening a book store come true. "One of my favorite author events at the store was the event with Studs Terkel," she says. "We were a new store and Studs is such a Chicago icon, it felt like hosting royalty."

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When asked if she's seen a spike in business since Borders Group, Inc. filed for bankruptcy in February, Takacs said "There's no love lost on Borders for me. They purposefully placed stores next to independent stores to drive them out of business. I don't think there has been a huge bump [in business] since Borders has closed its stores but there are many new faces at the store these days. It is my hope to absorb those customers instead of losing them to Amazon. I think Amazon is the real evil. They sell electronics, you know, they sell everything, so books were their loss leaders. They did not care about their pricing of books."

To stay competitive, Takacs says, "my immediate future plans are to get people familiar with the idea that they can purchase e-books from our website. I think that because we are a small, independent store that it doesn't occur to the general public that we are able to offer this service. The person just needs to download the free Google e-book app and to register on our website and he/she is ready to download e-books. We can help customers with most all readers except for the Kindle, which is Amazon only." While e-books seem to be a necessity for survival, Takacs says: "I believe there will always be print books. These are the books that you treasure, keep on your shelf and collect. The books in the home tell a lot about the person. E-Readers are helpful when traveling."

Stop by The Book Cellar to peruse the spines of the more than 15,000 titles, check out an event or sit and relax with a glass of wine and a prime view of the Giddings Plaza Fountain.

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The Book Cellar is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am-10pm, and Sunday and Thursday from 12pm-6pm, and is located just north of the Western Brown Line stop.

All photos by Karen Janas.

 
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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

Editor: Andrew Huff, ah@gapersblock.com
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