Bill Fletcher and Don Moss, two of Oak Park's newest residents, admittedly have a little bit of a problem.
As far as problems go, it's not a bad one to have – over the last few decades the couple that moved here earlier this year from Seattle has amassed a collection of thousands of books.
So many that they rented a storage space for about half of it. The other half, well, the couple has opened a shop in the Oak Park Arts District in the last few weeks and are now entrepreneurs.
Fletcher said in a recent interview that Jake's Place Books, 142 Harrison St. – the shop is named after Fletcher's beloved, late yellow Labrador – is more than just a long overdue purging of the married couple's personal book collection – the fledgling business also is a mission-driven enterprise.
"We got interested in a store to get books out to kids and to get them reading," Fletcher said.
He noted that all the children's books in the store are free and children are allowed to pick one when they come in.
Fletcher, who works at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines – a Roman Catholic institution for abused children – said he wants to get out into the community and start working where they need books or someone to read to children.
"It's always in the back of my mind that children need all the help you can give them," he said.
Fletcher recently donated a dozen pop-up books to Edward K. Duke Ellington Elementary School, 243 N Parkside Ave., in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. He noted that teachers there get about $250 a year for supplies and the kids in the special-education class there get a lot out of the pop-up books.
He noted that the basement shop has a garden in the back and he plans to schedule readings when the weather is good. "It's right on the Blue Line, so it's easy to get here for parents," Fletcher said.
Fletcher is putting out a call to organizations in and around Oak Park that are interested in getting books to kids to work with him to find the best way to make that happen.
He and Moss moved to Oak Park about six months ago in part because of the reputation of the community for openness and diversity.
They were walking down Harrison Street earlier this year when they saw the empty storefront and had their eureka moment. "It was an immediate decision for us to open a bookstore," he said.
The store has a wide selection, but Fletcher said they have an excellent performing arts selection with books on film, theater, drama and music.
Jake's Place is open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; noon to 6 p.m. on Fridays; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
More information about the shop is available on their website at jakesplacebooks.com.
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