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Independent Bookstore Coming to Roscoe Village This Fall

By Patty Wetli | September 29, 2014 9:51am
 Picture books here. RoscoeBooks is aiming for a November opening, owner says, and construction on the storefront has begun.
Picture books here. RoscoeBooks is aiming for a November opening, owner says, and construction on the storefront has begun.
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ROSCOE VILLAGE — Chicago's independent bookstore scene is about to gain a new member with the arrival of RoscoeBooks, expected this fall.

Owner Erika VanDam said she hopes to have the store, 2142 W. Roscoe St., up and running by mid-November, just in time for the holiday shopping season.

"It's one of the few things we don't have in the neighborhood," said VanDam, who moved to Roscoe Village from the Gold Coast in 2013. "There's something to be said for having things within walking distance."

Patty Wetli says the new owner understands that competition will be tough:

A sales and marketing professional with no prior retail experience, VanDam said she's simply "somebody who loves books and loves to read."

The birth of her first child last year got her thinking about making a career change.

"It was my husband who said, 'Let's think about what you'd really like to do,'" she recalled.

VanDam said she always wanted to own a shop, and after attending a week-long intensive training session on how to operate a bookstore, she decided to take the plunge.

"It was so obvious to me that yes, this was something I wanted to do," VanDam said.

Her biggest challenge was waiting for the right location to come along.

"I knew it had to be on Roscoe to feel part of the neighborhood," she said.

Having signed a lease in August, VanDam is now focused on the nitty gritty of the storefront's renovation, working with Paz and Associates — the same consultants who held the bookstore training session — on layout and design.

"It's hard to think about how many books can I actually fit," she said.

Given the neighborhood's concentration of young families, she expects children's books to make up 20 percent to 25 percent of her inventory.

"My aim is to have a general bookstore with an emphasis on children's books," she said.

Taking a page from her fellow indie booksellers in Chicago, who have succeeded where big box retailers have failed, VanDam said she plans to grow her customer base by being "more than just a place to buy books." She listed author readings, book signings and children's storytelling hours among the events she intends to hold.

"I'm under no illusion about people's buying habits," she said. "Amazon isn't going anywhere. They're always going to have massive market share and I'm never going to be able to compete on price."

That being said, VanDam said she's optimistic there's "enough business to go around."

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