Uncharted Books, taking over the retail space of a former shoe store, will be a general used bookstore focusing on literature — no airport fiction allowed. You'll also find vintage classics, and a focus on local Chicago interest, biographies, memories, history, and women's studies. " />

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News Wed Oct 19 2011

Logan Square Anticipates New Bookstore

This fall, Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood will get a new bookstore. Uncharted Books, taking over the retail space of a former shoe store, will be a general used bookstore focusing on literature — no airport fiction allowed. You'll also find vintage classics, and an emphasis on local Chicago interest, biographies, memoirs, history, and women's studies.

uncharted.jpgUncharted is the brainchild of Tanner McSwain, a transplant (ultimately) from a chicken farm in Albemarle, NC, who keeps finding himself in Logan Square — which, he feels, is "the right neighborhood at the right time. It's on the cusp of booming and becoming a destination."

Not one to disparage any of his fellow used bookstores (all booksellers are "on the same team", after all), and being a loyal fan of favorites Myopic, Women & Children First, Powell's and the Seminary Co-op, McSwain still feels that Chicago, and particularly his neighborhood, really needs a more general used bookstore. His niche is establishing a store without a niche.

The name of the bookstore comes from his hope to establish a place that allows adventure and exploration. "I'm definitely sailing into unknown territory here, and though I have some very specific visions for the direction of the store, it's also a bit of a blank page."

While he seems to be doing well on amassing titles to sell (currently, he has 8,000 books, and he hopes to reach 12,000 by opening), the transformation of the location itself into his vision for Uncharted seems dangerously far from its goal.

Retail horizontal grills — the kind you hang hooks for merchandise on — still cover what will eventually be beautiful, exposed brick; a plywood sub-floor waits to be transformed into either hardwood or nice laminate; the suspended ceiling, composed of those square, acoustic tiles, will be torn down, revealing the exposed pipe work above it.

McSwain is optimistic he'll be able to enact these renovations, perhaps by Thanksgiving, and if not, by Christmas — and what will be left is the feel of an old world European pub; dark woods, cozy.

Uncharted Books will be much more than a bookstore, however. It will double as a community center, offering literacy programs, writing classes, open mics, and readings. His goal, of course, is to "encourage people to create art and literature and not just consume it." A resident of Logan Square for many years, McSwain already has roots there, but he wants to make those roots deeper.

coming soon.jpgMcSwain, who is also a licensed massage therapist, has a background in publishing. A former employee of indie publisher Agate as well as McGraw-Hill, he's optimistic that independent bookstores, despite all economic woes, are "doing just fine". His research indicated that small, used bookstores are "borderline recession-proof," due to their low start-up costs and their ability to tap into people's "recession-era need" for thrift.

Of course, there's no harm in asking for a little help to get things started. Uncharted Books, which will buy your used reads for "more than you think," is also happy to accept donations. That, or you can check out their Kickstarter campaign.

Uncharted Books
Opening Fall 2011
2630 N. Milwaukee Avenue

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