Bookends & Beginnings announces expansion to second retail location


Jacob Fulton/Daily Senior Staffer

Bookends & Beginnings’ new storefront, 1716 Sherman Ave. The location is the bookstore’s first expansion since it was founded six years ago.

Jacob Fulton, City Editor

After six years in Evanston, independent bookstore Bookends & Beginnings announced an expansion to include a retail storefront at 1716 Sherman Ave. in a Sept. 2 news release.

The store’s initial location was in an alley off Sherman Avenue, and a significant portion of Bookends and Beginnings’ merchandise will remain in that facility, located a short walk away from the new storefront. The new location will primarily house bestselling books, new releases and non-book merchandise, store owner Nina Barrett said.

In May, the Evanston Barnes & Noble closed permanently, with plans to be replaced by a Northwestern Medicine facility. As a result, Bookends & Beginnings is one of a handful of independent bookstores across Evanston that will look to fill the void left by the retail giant.

Barrett said the new storefront will create more foot traffic for Bookends & Beginnings — something the alley location didn’t always provide. Getting customers into the store is often the most difficult part, Barrett said, because visitors to her shop will often return more than once.

“Once they come in, people usually love us because it is a cozy atmosphere and because I think we’ve all gotten used to these chain stores that basically all look alike,” Barrett said. “You go inside a chain store in Evanston and it looks just like the inside of that same chain store, anywhere else in America. It’s not a unique experience.”

However, Bookends & Beginnings did not escape the pandemic unscathed. After social distancing regulations and emergency shutdown orders went into place in March, Barrett had to close down the bookstore to physical visitors.

Between the store’s closure and its reopening in July, Barrett said the store filled online orders, but the revenue from online orders didn’t reach the same level as in-person shopping. As a result, she created a GoFundMe to make up for the lost income, and raised nearly $50,000, ensuring the store could stay open.

Annie Coakley, the executive director of Downtown Evanston, said Bookends & Beginnings’ successful pivot to online retail, coupled with the clear community backing it receives, indicates that the store will be able to adapt to all the challenges brought by COVID-19.

“Any store that’s that offering of both of those things — an online presence and an in store or curbside pickup — those are the stores that are going to survive all of this,” Coakley said. “One of the bigger indicators will be around the holidays. We push a ‘shop local’ message during the holidays, and this year is more important than it ever has been.”

Coakley said, despite multiple recent store closures and competition with large-scale retailers, some Evanston businesses have survived — and even thrived — amid the pandemic because of community support.

But with cases rising across the country and a potential second shutdown on the distant horizon, Barrett said for Bookends & Beginnings, and many other local businesses, the choice to shop local may be the difference between a thriving Evanston downtown and a ghost town.

“It’s a vote, like any other choice you make,” Barrett said. “People have the power to use their dollars to support their downtowns. And this is the moment they need to.”

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Twitter: @jacobnfulton

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