On March 31st, the cherished Harry W. Schwartz Bookstore on Oakland closed its doors for the last time. On November 7th – seven months and a week later – a bookstore opened at this location under the new name Open Book and under new owners – nearly 700 of them and growing.
Set up as a cooperative, the new Open Book bookstore is the result of the hard work of many volunteers throughout the summer, pulling together the start up capital from memberships through a lot of personal contact including email chains, Facebook, house parties, special events and door-to-door canvasses. This was truly a collective effort, with volunteers ranging from high school students to some of the area’s oldest residents.
One very big break for the store was the very favorable rent offered by Roundy’s, the lessee of the old Schwartz space, allowing Open Book to set up shop on 4093 N. Oakland Ave.
The goal was to open the first week in November was for two reasons. In order to ensure the success of the store and to get the strong start it needed Open Book had to take advantage of the two busiest months of the year leading up to the holidays. But very key was retaining the original Schwartz management staff, known for their knowledge of what the North Shore likes and for their customer service.
A gala party for the Open Book membership preceded opening day. On Thursday night over 300 people attended, enjoying the Shorewood High String Quartet as they arrived. Following the ribbon cutting by Village President Guy Johnson and Shorewood Business Improvement President Tim Ryan, owner of Harley’s on Oakland, the employees formed a corridor and applauded as the members entered the store sales area.
In a program presented during the party, store manager Lisa Zupke and the Open Book board members thanked the membership for their support and introduced the other 14 members of the store staff. Local bluesman Steve Cohen closed off the evening for the partygoers.
On opening day, the North Shore community showed their support for the store in a big way. Upon walking into the store many gazed at amazement at the store layout and expressed amazement that the store was pulled together so quickly during the summer.
There were many hugs for the store employees, a good number who had worked at the original Schwartz store. Outside, throughout the day traffic on Oakland came to a crawl as cars pulled into the parking lot or drivers slowed down to glimpse the action at the store. At the end of the sales day, the store rang up sales equal to that of a peak day during the holiday season.
For many in the North Shore, the closing of long time fixture Harry W. Schwartz bookstore tore a piece out of the community fabric. Thanks to the efforts of scores of volunteers and the over 700 members, the community is happy that they now have their bookstore back, and it indeed THEIR bookstore.
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