Bookends & Beginnings to Relocate after More Than 8 Years in Iconic Alley Space

More than 8 years after it was founded in the iconic alley space once occupied by the antiquarian bookstore called Bookman’s Alley, Evanston’s widely beloved independent bookstore Bookends & Beginnings has announced that it will be moving to a new location in January of 2023.

Store owner Nina Barrett said the move was triggered by a drastic increase in rent demanded by a new landlord who took possession of the property over the summer. “We had to face the fact that as much as this eccentric, back-alley ambiance had always been integral to our identity, remaining here was going to be unsustainable for us financially,” Barrett said.

But Barrett notes that the new location she secured for the store at 1620 Orrington Avenue is also located in one of Evanston’s historic buildings (the 1927 Hahn Building, which holds official Evanston Landmark status), and offers many advantages she thinks will help grow the business. “As much fun as it’s been to be Evanston’s ‘hidden gem’ all these years,” she said, “in today’s retail environment, it’s an ongoing challenge to be as well hidden as that.”

The new storefront occupies a high-visibility spot just off the city’s central Fountain Square, where Barrett says the many nearby restaurants generate evening foot traffic that she expects will sustain later open hours for the bookstore. She plans to build in a better, brighter children’s area, a larger event space to accommodate a more robust event schedule, and a limited wine and beverage service to enhance the event and browsing experience for customers.

Over the course of its 8 years in business, Bookends & Beginnings has earned national recognition for bringing a quirky brand of literary charm to the heart of Evanston. Barrett recently chatted with former Good Morning America host Charlie Gibson and his daughter Katie for their weekly book-centered podcast “The Book Case.” The store has appeared on the Thrillist list of 10 Woman-Owned Bookstores Across the U.S. and on the Mental Floss list of 16 Must-Visit Indie Bookstores Owned by Writers. Barrett has been an outspoken critic of Amazon’s harm to bookstores and brick-and-mortar retail generally, and last month published a full-page op-ed in the Chicago Tribune about the joy of having customers say they prefer to shop with her.

Barrett said the store plans to finish out the year in the current space and relocate in January of 2023. Because the holiday season plays such a critical role in the business model of the store, she said, a disruption during the holiday season would have drastic consequences for the store’s survival.

She added that she hopes customers will show extra support for the business during the holiday shopping season, since continuing strong sales will be critical to helping to finance the transition.