Bookends & Beginnings owner Nina Barrett.

Nina Barrett remembers the first time she set foot in the bookstore known then as Bookman’s Alley.

“I was a 25 year-old graduate student in journalism at Northwestern, back in the ’80s,” Barrett recalls.

“I wrote a story about it for my J-school class, because the place was so magical.”

After the quirky and colorful downtown store closed some three decades later, Barrett decided to continue the magic by taking over the location in 2014, calling it Bookends & Beginnings.

The bookstore in the alley in the 1700 block of Sherman Avenue.

But all beginnings have endings, location-wise, anyway.

So Saturday was the last day of business for a bookstore in Bookman’s Alley.

“I, like everybody else, have been very attached to this place,” Barrett tells Evanston Now.

But faced with a big rent increase that she could not afford, and not wanting to give up on the business she loves, Barrett found a new, more affordable location a few blocks away, the former La Macchina restaurant, at 1620 Orrington Ave.

Barrett says the new site will be more visible, open later hours with more events, and someday, the ability to serve wine.

“It’s going to be really beautiful,” she adds.

Finding the money to move has not been easy.

Barrett was hoping the city would help with federal ARPA money, which has been used for a variety of projects.

But city administrators said the bookstore move was not eligible for that type of funding, and came up with $83,000 from other sources, far less than what Barrett said was needed.

“We still have not given up on ARPA funding,” Barrett said, noting Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) is still pushing for it. But as of now, it’s not happening.

So Barrett turned to GoFundMe, and has raised $105,000 in an ongoing campaign.

That crowdfunding, along with the city dollars, is still only $188,000 ouf of the $350,000 total Barrett says is needed, even with some cuts in the project.

But, she says, “we have enough to open. I’m somewhat going on faith, because we do need to find the money some way or another.”

Customers like Erin Hancock are one way. Hancock, shopping at Bookends on its final day in the alley, said the current location is “a great spot. I love coming over here.”

But Hancock says she will go to the new site as well.

“I want to support our local business,” she says.

A “soft opening” for the new Bookends & Beginnings is expected during the week of Feb. 9.

Barrett says she’s trying not to be too sentimental about leaving the alley.

The store there “was our incubator for nine years,” she says, “allowing us to start with practically nothing and build a wonderful customer base” of 20,000 registered members.

And now, it’s time for Bookends to have a new Beginning.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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