Nina Barrett rasied her arms and cheered as the first customers walked in to her new Bookends and Beginnings on Orrington Avenue.
The financial and emotional struggle to move after a rent increase made the old Bookman’s Alley location unaffordable culminated with a joyous evening on Wednesday at the bright, colorful, and larger (with a downstairs) facility.
“I’m so happy,” Barrett said.
“I love this space.”
For example, shelves and fixtures which are not “second, third, or fourth-hand,” as in the old place. And a colorful mural created by two Evanstonians with names perfect for the location, Sam and George Booker.
Barrett had taken over the former Bookman’s Alley bookstore site in 2014, renamed it Bookends and Beginnings, and operated there until the end of last month.
While Barrett was committed to keeping a store downtown, a giant roadblock — money — stood in the way.
She had hoped City Council would fund a move, because the city has financed other small business projects.
However, officials said the bookstore was not eligible for federal ARPA dollars, and could only provide $83,000 from other sources.
Barrett then turned to GoFundMe.
More than 1,300 contributors provide nearly $110,000, turning the new location, a former restaurant, into a reality.
Wednesday night’s opening was for GoFundMe contributors, as a way of saying “thank you.”
Sandy Taylor was one of those donors.
“I’ve known Nina since the beginning” of Bookends and Beginnings, Taylor said.
If the bookstore were to close for good, Taylor said, “Evanston would lose one of its’ charming stores. We’d end up with big box stores or no stores” she added.
While the crowdfunding drive was a success, it is still short of the $250,000 Barrett was hoping to raise.
So she’s cut back on some of the things she wanted to do, but is continuing the fund campaign to be able to do them down the road.
However, events such as author signings will be back, no matter what. And the plan is also to have wine and snacks available … not as a bar, but rather to just add to the browsing experience.
“A bookstore is a destination,” said customer Diane Peachin.
Now that the “thank you” event for donors is finished, the new Bookends and Beginnings is open for all other customers. There will also be an official Grand Opening and ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. Saturday.
And while most of those on hand Wednesday evening were veteran readers and book purchasers, the event was also a chance to help nurture future book lovers and customers.
Four-year-old Ananda Badami sat in a child-sized chair in the kids’ book section, flipping through pages.
“He loves to read,” said his mom, Gretchen Badami.
“He loved the old Bookends.”
Gretchen Badami said she was “devastated” to hear that the Alley location was closing, and was happy to donate to help keep a locally-owned bookstore alive.
“We moved here because Evanston is a great place to live and raise our son,” she said.
And having a store like Bookends is part of that quality-of-life experience.
Sounds like there’s a children’s book topic in there somewhere.