Bookie’s is back, the Rock Shop is ready, and the new combination book/rocks/record store, informally dubbed “stacks and stones” by the partners in the venture, is set to open Tuesday, Nov. 22, at 18019 Dixie Highway in Homewood.
The Rock Shop, co-owned by Laura Bruni and Craig Frank, held a soft opening Friday, Nov. 18, to introduce the new space, which includes Bookie’s familiar dark colored shelves along the walls, a center display of vinyl records in the center of the store, and displays of rocks, crystals and jewelry.
There’s a vintage jukebox inside the door. Bruni said it’s not operational yet, but it serves as part of the ambience in a cozy reading or listening area at the front of the shop.
When announcing the new venture in October, Bookie’s owner Keith Lewis used a phoenix image to evoke the rise-from-the-ashes story of his Homewood shop.
The bookstore, at 2015 Ridge Road, closed on Sept. 24 after a rent hike happened that the store’s sales were not able to absorb.
With the combination of new partners and the lower cost of a smaller space, Lewis is optimistic the business will flourish.
“The space is beautiful,” he said. “I’m really excited now that I see it. The store looks inviting, cozy and so much about it is so much better than I could have done without the Rock Shop. It looks and feels more like the destination store I’ve always wanted. The businesses involved complement each other well.”
Lewis said the reduction in shelf space might be a blessing. It will mean more efficient, focused curating of the offerings in the store. Bookie’s also accepts orders online.
“We should be able to stock a lot more of what customers want, and it will be easier to find than ever before,” he said.
Bookshelves line the south wall and the back of the shop. The north wall is filled with two other Rock Shop features, framed concert art and custom guitars. Frank plans to carry parts and materials for patrons hoping to build their own guitars.
“I built all of these to my own specifications,” Frank said. “Each one has its own unique personality, from electronics to neck profile.”
Frank hopes to develop a podcast recording studio next year that will be available for rent.
He and Bruni have been developing their businesses for some time, setting up shop at area festivals. They have been interested for some time in finding a brick and mortar home.
“The reception at the Homewood Artisan Market really cemented it for us, that we wanted our presence here, in our own hometown,” Bruni said.
[Editor’s note: The paragraph above has been edited for clarity. The original version implied Bruni’s rock business expanded during the pandemic, but it was her editing business that grew.]
Bruni said she found an ethically sourcing wholesaler for her crystal, gem and mineral specimens.
“I’m not interested in contributing to water contamination or child labor,” she said.
Creative boredom played a part in the development of the Rock Shop’s rock side.
“When your partner collects records, you end up at a lot of record stores,” she says. “I love music and listening to records, but I do not collect them, which means much of the time, I get bored. When Craig started talking seriously about opening this store, I figured I could tack something I’m interested in onto the business plan.”
Also on the north wall is a display case showing the work of jewelry maker Ashley Zagotta, of Homewood.
Zagotta said the mission of her business is not only to design custom jewelry but to make the craft more accessible to people who might assume jewelry making is too expensive or difficult to try. So she plans to offer jewelry making classes at some point.
Bruni and Zagotta said when they met, it was immediately obvious to them both that their approaches and their businesses were a great match.
Bruni’s wares already have at least one very loyal customer. Eme Matthys of Flossmoor said she has been collecting crystals for two to three years and has a “decent collection.” She expects it to grow now that the Rock Shop has a permanent location.
“I just love crystals. Some I have got from one of the owners of the store,” she said. “I love everything in here. It’s a really nice vibe.”
The vibe is something Lewis is excited about, too. When he announced the closure of the Ridge Road shop early in September, he vowed to keep connected to Homewood area customers and said he would look for an opportunity to reopen the shop in another location.
At the time, none of the available spaces seemed to fit the store’s needs. When Frank and Bruni approached him with an invitation to collaborate, Lewis fell in love with the idea and the space on Dixie Highway. He concluded that the closure of the Ridge Road store might actually turn out to be for the best.
“Bookie’s never wanted to leave,” he said. “We loved what we built on Ridge Road. A bookstore makes a city, town or village a better place.”
The store had a loyal following, he said. In the final days before it closed, customers expressed dismay at the loss of their cherished book store. But that devotion didn’t translate into adequate sales volume to make the store a success. As the new store opens, he is urging local book lovers to shop local.
“Any kind of store needs the support of the community it serves and the surrounding communities as well,” he said. “They’re businesses that need to earn money to stick around. Even if we love what we do, there’s no getting around the financial aspect. It will always be worth it to shop local.”