Old Bookends and Beginnings at Bookman's Alley.

Bookends & Beginnings will have a new beginning in 2023.

And Bookman’s Alley will be without a bookstore.

Owner Nina Barrett said Tuesday that a rent increase at her current location made staying in the present spot “unsustainable for us financially.”

So, in January, Bookends & Beginnings will move to 1620 Orrington Ave., in the storefront formerly occupied by La Macchina Cafe, which closed in 2020 during the pandemic.

Barrett said the “eclectic, back-alley ambiance” was part of Bookends’ vibe for the past eight years. She also expanded into a more visible storefront annex on Sherman Avenue.

The interior of the Bookends and Beginnings, in an image from the store’s Facebook page.

But Barrett also said that “As much fun as it’s been to be Evanston’s hidden gem …, in today’s retail environment, it’s an ongoing challenge to be as well hidden as that.”

For someplace hidden, however, Barrett has received national publicity as an independent bookstore owner who survived when larger booksellers were closing. In 2021, she filed a lawsuit against Amazon and five major publishers, hoping for class action status alleging unfair monopolistic price setting.

The present Bookends building has been purchased by developer Steve Rogin, who plans to turn the old Varsity Theater across the alley into ground floor retail and 35 apartments upstairs, a project he said is moving forward.

A rendering of a potential redevelopment of Bookman’s Alley.

Rogin told Evanston Now that, Barrett “made the decision to leave,” but all the other tenants such as the Alley Gallery framing shop, are “100% remaining.”

Bookends and Beginnings will remain in its present home through the critical holiday sales season, then pack up the books and head for that 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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1 Comment

  1. The whole point of “Bookman’s Alley” was going back to visit the wonderful, labyrinthian “cat haunt” of stacked books and curiosities amassed and overseen for many years b original proprietor Roger Carlson, and so sweetly preserved and upgraded by Nina Barrett and Geoffrey Garrett with their “hidden gem” Bookends & Beginnings over the past eight years. What landlord Rogin will do with a shiny new pricey commercial arcade back there may be of interest to some (though all those empty storefronts in downtown Evanston today do not bode well for ersatz gifty commerce) but, devoid of a bookseller, not much authentic character to the name or enterprise. Glad at least that the gallery will stay put. Rogin would have been smart to help the bookstore stay put, too.

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