Madelyn Gozzi shows her father a book while her brother, Nico, reads one. Carlo Gozzi of Flossmoor was at Bookie's in Homewood on Saturday with his children to check out new books. He said the family visits regularly to enhance their home library. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
Business, Local News

Bookie’s announces pending closure of Homewood book store

Many avid readers in the Homewood-Flossmoor area were in mourning Saturday, Sept. 3, as the learned their beloved local bookstore, Bookie’s, would close at the end of the month. 

Owner Keith Lewis posted the announcement on the Homewood shop’s Facebook page late Friday night, citing a 20% rent increase as the primary reason for the closure. 

A sign on the window at Bookie's New and Used Books in Homewood announces the pending closure of the store. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
A sign on the window at Bookie’s New and Used Books in Homewood
announces the pending closure of the store. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Jo Greep and her daughter, Eleanor, were enjoying a cool drink at the parklet on Martin Square, although they would have enjoyed the morning more if not for the news from Bookie’s.

“It’s crushing. I’m sorry to say I cried about a book store,” Jo said. 

She recalled that when she first heard Bookie’s was planning to open a store in Homewood in 2018, she and her family of avid readers were so excited that they headed straight for the company’s store in Chicago to check it out. 

“I haven’t bought a book from a corporate store since they opened,” she said.

She said the loss is a blow to the village, noting that an independent book store, like good schools, is an asset that draws new people to the community.

In several discussion threads on the Bookie’s Homewood store Facebook page and on other local social media groups people expressed similar dismay at the pending loss of the store. 

In the shop on Saturday morning, regular customers, including Sandra Armenteros of Homewood, stopped by to say so in person.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “We’ve been supporting them since they opened.”

Rudy Steiner of Homewood was in the shop with his brother, Fred, of Bluffton, Ohio, when he heard the news.

“I thought there was hope for this place,” he said, noting that any time he had visitors from out of town he would bring them to Bookie’s to show off the village’s book store. “It’s like a destination.”

Pam Rodey of Flossmoor told store manager Rich Wojcikowski how sorry she was about the news. She’s been to the store often enough that Wojcikowski greeted her by name as she walked in, but she felt she hadn’t done enough. 

“I wish I would have bought more books,” she said. “I was a regular, but not regular enough.”

Lewis said that was part of the problem for the business. He said the rent increase and new lease were the immediate causes of the closure, but the store had been struggling to make enough money before the new factors emerged.

He said the store has a solid base of very loyal customers, and it did well during the village’s big festivals, when large crowds gathered downtown, but there weren’t enough loyal customers or enough festivals to reach profitability. 

“We had fantastic customer base,” he said. “We had people that came in and would spend thousands of dollars a year in our store, and it was fantastic, but you can’t rely on them alone.”

He said when Wojcikowski recently took a close look at the balance sheet, it was apparent that the original store in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago was subsidizing the Homewood store.

A number of people in the online conversations suggested alternative locations, and Lewis said he checked on several in Homewood and Flossmoor, but none of the locations available now would fit the store’s budget, space or foot traffic needs. 

Village officials pitched in to see if there was any way to keep the store going. Mayor Rich Hofeld said he and Economic Development Director Angela Mesaros met with Lewis and Wojcikowski a number of times in recent weeks and contacted the property owner in an attempt to find a solution.

“I’m very disappointed, to say the least,” Hofeld said on Saturday. “We worked hard on this. I want nothing more than to keep them in town.”

Lewis credits Hofeld with initiating the idea of opening a store in Homewood. Hofeld actively recruited him because there was so much interest from residents in having a local book store.

Hofeld said he had hoped to convince Lewis to keep the store open through the holidays to see if business would pick up. There are also three new residential developments planned for the downtown area, with one under construction, that are expected to increase business downtown.

He said the village remains committed to keeping the store and would be able to provide some assistance for qualified projects through the downtown TIF district.

“It’s not too late,” he said. 

Lewis said it appears there is no hope of continuing at the current location, but he, too, wants to remain connected to the H-F community and hasn’t given up hope on that.

“I hope that the closure will be temporary. I think the potential still is there to have a successful bookstore in Homewood,” he said. “We don’t want to close the door on Homewood, and we don’t want Homewood to close the door on us.”

To that end, Wojcikowski said the store will try to keep serving its H-F customer base. He said they are considering a delivery service, so H-F residents can order from Bookie’s even if they don’t want to make the trip to the Beverly store. 

A number of customers indicated they planned to continue doing business with the store in spite of the closure. 

“I was very impressed with their commitment to continue to support Homewood/Flossmoor organizations and to stay connected to the area,” Rodey said.

“Guess we’ll just be driving to Beverly more often,” Greep said.

Related stories:

Bookie’s set to open Saturday with visit from children’s book author (Sept. 6, 2018)
The book store dream comes true: Bookie’s is coming to Homewood (May 7, 2018)
Homewood trustees approve business incentive for Bookies, tour new fire truck (Aug. 30, 2018)

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