Connections in Community: Local Independent Bookstores and Barnes and Noble

Volumes Bookcafe at prior location in Wicker Park, taken from Instagram of Volumes Bookcafe
Volumes Bookcafe at prior location in Wicker Park, taken from Instagram of Volumes Bookcafe

Rebecca George, the co-owner of Volumes Bookcafe, posted a video on social media in response to an email received by one of her customers from Barnes and Noble (B&N) CEO James Daunt. The email was regarding B&N’s decision to open a store in the historic site of Noel Street Bank in Wicker Park during the Summer of 2024.

B&N is scheduled to be located at 1601 N. Milwaukee Avenue. The building was built in 1919 that housed the former Noel Street Bank. It is a historic landmark in the neighborhood. Before it closed in early 2023, Walgreens occupied the building. According to a 2007 Milwaukee Avenue District Chicago Landmark Designation Report, the former Walgreens kept the original layout of the bank as designed by Gardner C. Coughlen in a Classical Revival style in ornamental terra cotta.

George, a former NEIU adjunct professor, released a TikTok video about Daunt defending the opening of a B&N store in an area where there are several independent bookstores. “I’ve never been more angry in my life.”

In the email, CEO Daunt agreed with the customer that “as a chain bookseller we should never intrude on the locality of an independent bookseller of new books”, he went on to describe the different stores in the nearby area: Volumes Bookcafe, Myopic Books, Quimby’s and Open Books. He described Volumes as “a cafe with a very small selection of books”.  

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Volumes is currently entering its eighth year as an independent bookstore in Wicker Park, with an additional location in downtown Chicago that closed in September of 2023. 

George went on to defend the bookstore as such; hosting several guest speakers, open mic events, twice-a-week Story Time for kids, as well as outdoor events such as selling books at Farmers Markets and organizing book fairs.

There have been other responses due to the B&N store announcement, like Quimby’s. In an interview with Block Club Chicago, Quimby’s manager Liz Mason responded with mixed emotions about the move. While she is open to the idea of more bookstores in the area, Mason is hopeful that her customers will be interested in what we have to offer.

Volumes has encountered some difficulties, with a GoFundMe page created in late January 2024 detailing the various repairs the store needs to maintain operations. As of this current article, it is close to $5,000 out of their $15,000 goal.

Barnes and Noble will be opening up two stores in the Chicago area this summer, with the second location at 651 W. Diversey Parkway.

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