First reported 7/19/2010 3:29 p.m.

Customers strolling over to Oak Park’s oldest bookstore Monday morning were greeted with an empty storefront and papered-over windows. That’s because Barbara’s, doing business in Oak Park since the 1970s, officially shut down at the close of the weekend.

A small sign on the door of the store announced the store’s closing after its last day of business on Sunday.

“For more than three decades, Barbara’s Bookstore has served the Oak Park community, all the while grateful for the support received,” the sign reads. “Unfortunately, our time here at 1100 Lake St. has come to an end. Barbara’s would like to thank everyone for making our time here special. Please accept our heartfelt gratitude.”

The store was evicted, following a recent court battle with its landlord. In March, a county judge sided with property owner Anthony Shaker in the dispute over their lease, and in May, the retailer was ordered to pay $126,543 to its landlord, mostly in back rent and attorney fees.

In a phone interview Monday, Shaker said the store has paid its rent through the end of July, but not “a dime” of what is owed under the court ruling. Barbara’s lease was set to expire at the end of this month, and Potbelly Sandwich Works’ lease will start Aug. 1.

The eatery tentatively plans to open in early November after an extensive build out, according to Shaker. Negotiations continue for a lease on the other half of Barbara’s former space, and he hopes to announce a new tenant within 30 days.

Don Barliant, owner of the small regional chain of bookstores, said he was “sad” to see the local location close after so many years. He still believes the retailer could reopen here if it found the right spot.

“We think of ourselves as part of Oak Park and would love to be there,” he said from his home in New Mexico.

In the meantime, Barbara’s is planning to open a new location on Aug. 26 in Burr Ridge, about 14 miles southwest of Oak Park. A sign in the local store’s window directs customers to other locations in Chicago.

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