Bookends & Beginnings, a new independent bookstore, plans to open in June in the Sherman Avenue space in downtown Evanston formerly occupied by Bookman’s Alley.

“Our goal is to create a vibrant cultural destination and hub of book-centered community for both adults and children,” says owner Nina Barrett.

Barrett, an author, radio personality, and longtime Evanston resident, says, “Evanston has always supported an array of wonderful used, antiquarian, and specialty bookshops, but we think the time is right for a more substantial-sized, knowledgeably curated, general-interest store.”

Barrett says the shop will offer a mixture of new, used and specially discounted books, with particular emphasis on titles that she hopes will appeal to Evanston’s highly educated and multi-ethnic population.

Barrett has published literary essays and reviews in The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Publishers Weekly, and many other publications.

Also a trained chef and two-time James Beard Award winner for her radio food reporting for Chicago’s NPR affiliate station WBEZ, Barrett says she plans to make the cooking section “a destination for cooks and food lovers.”

Barrett’s husband Jeffrey Garrett, who recently retired from his job as an academic research librarian, will curate several sections, drawing on his decades of experience in rare books and specialized collections, European publishing, and international children’s literature.

Bookends & Beginnings will also carry an eclectic array of antiques, toys, stationery, Evanston and Chicago-area-themed gifts, artisanal artworks and jewelry.

“We’re importing an extensive line of unique beaded necklaces and other jewelry from an atelier in Berlin,” Barrett says. “Our vision of a bookstore is that it can just as comfortably sell you a book that changes the course of your life, as a gift or a small, affordable piece of art that changes the course of your day.”

Having started her career just out of college in book publishing in New York, and worked on and off as a bookseller over the course of 15 years, Barrett notes that the past two decades have been brutal for independent stores.

“We’ve lost more than half the independent stores in the country to competition from the chains, online retailers, and just the sheer amount of time people spend on their various electronic devices instead of reading books,” she says.

But just in the past year or two, the independent bookstore seems to be making a comeback. Sources including National Public Radio and The Washington Post have noted what they’re calling a “renaissance” of independent bookselling.

“Book-lovers have started to recognize what’s been lost when there’s no exciting physical place where they can congregate, browse, think, and talk,” she says. “And we’re confident that if any community can support that kind of a business in the face of today’s challenges, Evanston can.”

Top: Nina Barrett in an image from the manifesto video from her Fear of Frying website.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. I wish her the best

    Evanston once had many new and used bookstores.

    Great Expectations on Foster was world famous—and that is not an exaggeration.  A German article  on bookstores started "And of course if you get to the US you have to go to Great Expectations."  The selection in many areas was unbelieveable. Also the original owner had a postcard on the wall from Cambridge Press responding to him about reprinting a book "If you think so we will."  Ask any author how rare that power is!  But Evanston did not support it.

    Richard Barnes [rare and used] was also famous with collectors and academics.

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