Place Details

Bookends & Beginnings

1712 Sherman Avenue, Alley 1
Evanston,  IL 60201

Phone: (224) 999-7722

Bookends & Beginnings

On June 14, 2014, a new full-service independent bookstore debuted in a downtown Evanston space already well known to a generation of area book-lovers. Bookends & Beginnings is a new general-interest independent bookstore located in the space formerly occupied by Bookman’s Alley, a legendary local antiquarian bookstore.

“Our goal is to create a vibrant cultural destination and hub of book-centered community for both adults and children,” says owner Nina Barrett, herself an author, radio personality, and longtime Evanston resident. “Evanston has always supported an array of wonderful used, antiquarian, and specialty bookshops, but we think the time is right for a more substantial-sized, knowledgeably curated, general-interest store.”

Barrett says the shop will offer a mixture of new, used, and specially discounted books, with particular emphasis on titles that will appeal to Evanston’s highly educated and multi-ethnic population. Home to Northwestern University, Evanston is a demographically diverse transitional zone between the melting pot of Chicago on its southern border and the wealthier suburbs on the area’s North Shore, all of whom look to Evanston as a cultural and recreational destination. (In Audrey Niffenegger’s 2003 bestseller The Time Traveler’s Wife, the main characters pass an afternoon browsing at Bookman’s Alley after spending a morning toasting themselves on an Evanston beach.)

Barrett has published literary essays and reviews in The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Publishers Weekly, and many other publications. Also a trained chef and two-time James Beard Award winner for her radio food reporting for Chicago’s NPR affiliate station WBEZ, Barrett says she plans to make the cooking section “a destination for cooks and food lovers.” Barrett’s husband Jeffrey Garrett, who recently retired from his job as an academic research librarian, will curate several sections, drawing on his decades of experience in rare books and specialized collections, European publishing, and international children’s literature.

Bookends & Beginnings will also carry an eclectic array of sidelines, including antiques, toys, stationery, Evanston and Chicago-area-themed gifts, artisanal artworks, and jewelry. “We’re importing an extensive line of unique beaded necklaces and other jewelry from an atelier in Berlin, Germany,” Barrett says. “Our vision of a bookstore is that it can just as comfortably sell you a book that changes the course of your life, as a gift or a small, affordable piece of art that changes the course of your day.”

The store will also host readings, discussions, story times, puppet shows, and workshops. “Sometimes,” Barrett says, “what changes your life or your day is one new idea, or an interesting conversation you have with a stranger.”

Having started her career just out of college in book publishing in New York, and worked on and off as a bookseller over the course of 15 years, Barrett notes that the past two decades have been brutal for independent stores. “We’ve lost more than half the independent stores in the country to competition from the chains, online retailers, and just the sheer amount of time people spend on their various electronic devices instead of reading books,” she says.

But just in the past year or two, she says, the independent bookstore seems to be making a comeback. Sources including National Public Radio and The Washington Post have noted what they’re calling a “renaissance” of independent bookselling.

“Book-lovers have started to recognize what’s been lost when there’s no exciting physical place where they can congregate, browse, think, and talk,” she says. “And we’re confident that if any community can support that kind of a business in the face of today’s challenges, Evanston can.”

Barrett and Garrett invite the community to share ideas, hopes, and wishes for the new store at the Bookends & Beginnings Facebook page.

For more information, contact

Located in the heart of downtown Evanston, Bookends & Beginnings features new, used, and remaindered books, literary events, gifts, and local color.

Show Map

Business Info

Parking: Street, Parking Lot

Categories: Book Store, Gift Shop, Jewelry Store


Mon: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Tue: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Wed: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Thu: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Fri: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sun: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Report a Problem


Past Events

More Events
Tweets from Chicago