Bookends & Beginnings, Evanston, Ill., Opens Gift Boutique
Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston, Ill., opened a second location devoted to stationery and gift items last month. Located around the corner from the original space, which owner Nina Barrett opened six years ago, the new Bookends & Beginnings boutique contains all of the non-book items the main store used to sell, as well as a limited selection of gift books, crossword puzzle books and books about Evanston and Chicago history.
In normal times, Barrett explained, Evanston sees a huge amount of tourist traffic, much of it due to Northwestern University, and she was always frustrated that she couldn't attract more of that tourist traffic to the store, which is located in an alley. The boutique is on one of Evanston's busiest streets and is aimed at attracting a less book-focused customer while also pointing those customers toward the main store.
So far, Barrett continued, it seems to be doing exactly that, though much less robustly due to a combination of factors, including Covid restrictions on Northwestern's campus and restaurants essentially being paralyzed, as well as a brutal cold snap and spate of snowstorms that have turned Chicago into the "new Siberia."
Opening the boutique has given Barrett and her team much more room for books in the main store. They've relocated sections that were getting overcrowded and can now give display space to titles that they were never able to face-out before. After the nearest Barnes & Noble closed, Bookends & Beginnings started carrying more in genres that had never sold much before, such as romance, mystery and thrillers, and the move has allowed the store to grow those sections. The children's section has also been significantly expanded.
Barrett reported that customers are very happy about the boutique and are cheering the store on, and she noted that several forces seem to be converging right now. The Shop Local message has really gotten through to people, the store is no longer competing directly with Barnes & Noble, and everyone is "really worried about the toll that Covid is taking on their downtown."