Belleville Books Coming to Belleville, Ill.

Belleville Books, a new and used bookstore, will open later this year at 20 East Main St. in Belleville, Ill. The News-Democrat reported that co-owners Steve Mathews and Robert Eckman purchased the historic Belleville Savings Bank building and will offer a diverse selection of titles to readers of all types, with an inventory featuring about 25% new and 75% used books. Current plans call for Belleville Books opening by Father's Day.

"We sold our house [in Utah] to buy the bank," said Eckman, who previously worked at the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City. He started there in 2005, working one day a week as a storyteller, until he became the shop's marketing director in 2013. Eight years later he was the shop's general manager. Eckman also has experience in hospitality and was once a community relations manager and trainer for Barnes & Noble. 

Noting that Belleville Books will be a place of knowledge as well as a safe space to read and learn, Eckman said the owners want to make books--and knowledge--easily accessible to people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and all others that make up the local community. 

Plans also include regular storytelling events, author events, poetry slams, and book clubs. The News-Democrat wrote that the "vibe of the store will be rich and secure (like a bank), according to Eckman. The colors will be dark and rich. Reading spots will have comfy chairs.... There will be a piano for singalongs with the kids."

The children's area front and center will feature a tree with chandelier crystals hanging from it, and the tree trunk will blend into an original column that was partially removed to make space for the night depository. 

With a lot of work--much of it is cosmetic--required to get the building ready for a bookstore, Mathews said they are taking things "one day at a time. It's a big project. It's been fun." Opening Belleville Books is "almost divinely inspired," he added. "We changed our whole life" to do this. 

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