Veteran indie bookseller Javier Ramirez is partnering with another bookseller, Mary Mollman, to open an indie bookstore in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. Target date to open the store is mid-November – though the two say they will delay the opening to the spring if they are not ready to open before the holidays. The bookstore will be called Madison Street Books, located at 1127 West Madison Street.
“We wanted to keep [the store name] simple and to honor an iconic street in the neighborhood,” Ramirez said, describing the area as “up and coming” with “lots of families,' as well as a nearby school and daycare center. “It’s a fantastic area that doesn’t have a community bookstore,” Mollman added, anticipating that the store will launch a lively schedule of author events for both adults and children, “We want to be a community-based bookstore.”
The store will be a full-service general bookstore that Mollman describes as being “well curated,” with a diverse selection, ranging from bestsellers from the large houses to small presses and books by “more obscure” authors. The bookstore will also have, Ramirez said a “sizeable, really solid” children’s section, with regularly scheduled story times to accommodate the needs of the community.
Ramirez has worked at a number of Chicagoland's indies (Including the Book Cellar, Seminary Coop/57th Street Books, City Lit, and Barbara's Bookstore) for almost 25 years since moving to the Windy City to help open a Tower Records store, Most recently, he has worked as the manager at the Book Table in Oak Park for the past five years and gave his notice last week. Mollman works at Booked, a children’s bookstore in Evanston for the past year; she also just gave her notice. The two met about seven years ago when they both worked at The Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Ill.
After taking time off from there to focus upon her family of four children, Mollman returned to bookselling by taking the position at Booked last year. While passing through the West Loop recently, she noticed a “for rent” sign in a window, and on a whim, toured the 1,700-square-foot space that includes a loft. After signing the lease, she contacted Ramirez and asked him to partner with her in the new venture.
“I think we both have what it takes to run a bookstore,” Mollman said, “I’m ready to rise to the challenge. It’s been my life-long dream to own a bookstore. I love talking with customers, finding the ‘just-right’ book. And Javier has so much experience, he’s well connected with publishers and other booksellers and authors, and he has so much respect for the process. It’s great to have a partner who knows so much. He’ll keep me on track.”
Ramirez is one of the five judges in the fiction category for the 2019 National Book Awards. He also organizes with author and editor Keir Graff the Publishing Cocktails regular meet ups and cash mobs of Chicagoland publishing professionals, as well as an author series at the Beer Shop in Oak Park that is currently co-sponsored by Book Table. If Book Table does not continue the author series, Ramirez says, he will continue organizing it.