I saw this on Chicago Tonight–another sad development in the literary life of the Chicago area. Go here to see the segment on the show.
At Bookman’s Alley, the Evanston mainstay, the decorations—the top hats, the model ships, the presidential busts—are almost as important as the books. Toy airplanes are perched atop bookshelves, across the hall from a 19th century printing press.
When owner Roger Carlson opened the store more than 30 years ago, he wanted to finally open a used bookstore that didn’t have the same atmosphere as a soup kitchen.
“I was dressing the set, if you think of my shop as a presentation,” he said. “There are many fine used bookshops, but they tend to be pretty much devoted to displaying the books.”
Carlson likes to keep the decorations thematic. In the Western literature and history section, for example, “there’s a western saddle, and eight or nine hats and spurs,” Carlson said. “Everything but a cowboy sitting there, shooting at beer bottles.”
The creative decorating is part of why so many frequent the shop and why, as the store prepares to close in the news month or so, so many are interested in taking home a piece for themselves. Carlson says he’s holding on to most of it until the very end, but price tags have started popping up on gold bird figurines ($90) and black top hats ($85).
Carlson says declining sales at brick-and-mortar bookstores and recent health problems forced him to close. He’s been promising to close the store “soon” since December, but it’s taken him longer than he expected to liquidate his inventory.
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