Print media is dead! Books are dead! Digital is the future!
It’s an overplayed trope, heard ad infinitum across the media landscape, but one Oak Park business is proving them wrong.
The Book Table – gasp, a good old-fashioned brick-and-mortar bookstore at 1045 Lake St. — is expanding into the adjacent space formerly occupied by Holiday Camera.
It is a homecoming of sorts for the “fiercely independent bookstore” in that the 2,800-square-foot space to the west at 1047 Lake St. was the bookstore’s original home.
The Book Table launched in 2003 but outgrew the space and moved to its current home in 2008.
The Book Table co-owner Rachel Weaver said in a telephone interview that the move was made in part to expand the business’s selection of art and architecture books. But the extensive collection – The Book Table carries about 7,000 art and architecture books – ended up in a back area of the store where they are often overlooked by customers.
“The volume of stuff we get in all the time causes us to often be overflowing with boxes into the art section,” said Weaver, who owns and operates the shop with her husband, Jason Smith.
“We do want to give a little more respect to that section,” she said.
Like all good bookstores, The Book Table is teeming with bound editions from floor to ceiling in some areas. Rachel said the business has some 70,000 books at the location on any given day.
When the opportunity to expand presented itself, Weaver and Smith pounced.
Now they’re looking for help from booklovers everywhere in the build-out of the expanded location.
They’ve launched an online fundraising campaign through Indiegogo.com called “Help The Book Table Grow!” and are seeking to raise $50,000 over the next month to help fund the expansion project.
“Adding our old space to our current space will essentially allow us to give these categories their own storefront, plus a lot more breathing room for the rest of the store,” Weaver notes on the Indiegogo website. “This will give us more room to properly stock and display growing categories, like sci-fi/fantasy, teen fiction, cookbooks, and more.”
The fundraiser page says the lease for the new space is already signed, and The Book Table plans to have the expanded space open in July.
Weaver and Smith also face the perils of a massive forthcoming streetscaping project along Lake Street, which is expected to begin later this summer.
“Stores typically face a 20 to 40 percent drop in business during construction projects, and ideally we would have a fresh line of credit available to us during that time rather than already having substantial debt to shoulder,” the fundraiser site states. “So, while this may not be the ideal time to expand the store, we are also keenly aware that we may not have this opportunity again.”
Weaver told Wednesday Journal that the $50,000 will go toward replacing the existing carpeting with hardwood floors, installing fixtures and purchasing bookcases, counters and a cash register, among other things.
The Book Table is turning to some of its most famous fans to help out with the fundraiser. W. Kamau Bell, host of the CNN show “United Shades of America” and a longtime friend of Smith – they grew up together in Chicago – is offering a number of gifts, including signed copies of his book and a chance to meet the celebrity in person, for those who donate more than $700.
And Oak Park celebrity cartoonist Chris Ware, a friend of the store, is offering a variety of items, including a hand-drawn sketch, for those who donate $400 or more.
A full list of the gifts available for various donation levels is available on the fundraiser website.