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Bookstore owners seeking new home in Wicker Park: ‘We will be back’

Another small business, Volumes Bookcafe, is shutting down after taking a big hit from the pandemic. The storefront’s last day is Saturday, though web sales will continue.

Volumes Bookcafe is closing its storefront in Wicker Park. Its last day will be Saturday, March 27, 2021, though the online store will continue. The owners hope to find a new location.
Volumes Bookcafe is closing its storefront in Wicker Park. Its last day will be Saturday, though the online store will continue. The owners hope to find a new location.
Zac Clingenpeel/Sun-Times

Rebecca George began to tear up as she reminisced about building the tables and plastering the walls of her bookstore — walls covered with the signatures of authors and celebrities.

“I probably spent two months of my life just plastering and painting,” George said.

In the five years since it opened, Volumes Bookcafe, 1474 N. Milwaukee Ave., has become a staple of the Wicker Park community, a place that drew people from beyond the neighborhood for books, special events and community activities.

Earlier this week, Rebecca George and her sister and co-owner Kimberly George announced on the store’s social media accounts that Saturday will be their last day of business.

For now.

“This is not forever,” the post said. “We will be back.”

Friday, March 26, 2021 was one of the busiest days Volumes Bookcafe has had in weeks, with word spreading that the Wicker Park bookstore was closing. Saturday will be the last day, though the owners hope to find a new location in the neighborhood.
Friday was one of the busiest days Volumes Bookcafe has had in weeks, with word spreading that the Wicker Park bookstore was closing. Saturday will be the last day, though the owners hope to find a new location in the neighborhood.
Zac Clingenpeel/Sun-Times

Like many small businesses, the bookstore has struggled during the pandemic and no longer can afford the rent at their current location, Rebecca George said. They’re looking for a new location and hope to find something “as quick as possible,” she added.

“I just want people to know we are not losing a business, just a location,” she said. “We’re still here. The community doesn’t go away.”

If anything comes out of the pandemic, Rebecca George said, she hopes it is a sense of community, with more support for local businesses.

Storage boxes and free book giveaways are piled up near a wall in Volume Bookcafe on Friday, March 26, 2021. The wall is filled with signatures from artists, authors and other celebrity visitors. The store’s last day is Saturday.
Storage boxes and free book giveaways are piled up near a wall in Volume Bookcafe. The wall is filled with signatures from artists, authors and other celebrity visitors.
Zac Clingenpeel/Sun-Times

In the past, the bookstore has been the site of many community events including book swaps, book signings, children story times, arts and crafts, open mics and even two weddings. They’ve also hosted an all-woman stand-up comedy show, “You Joke Like A Girl.”

The southeast interior wall is covered in signatures from authors and celebrities who visited the store over the years.

Several patrons on Friday spoke of how much they would miss the store. Jane Martinez, who has shopped there since it opened, volunteered to help pack up supplies Friday.

“It’s more than a bookstore,” Martinez said. “I would sometimes go out of my way to stop here for coffee rather than other places.”

Jane Martinez is usually a customer at Volumes Bookcafe, but on Friday she was helping to pack up store supplies. The store’s last day is Saturday.
Jane Martinez is usually a customer at Volumes Bookcafe, but on Friday she was helping to pack up store supplies. The store’s last day is Saturday.
Zac Clingenpeel/Sun-Times

Sarah Manella works next door and has been a frequent visitor.

“It’s just a good space to be in,” Manella said. “It’s wholesome and I’m really sad that it is closing.”

Store employees know the feeling.

“It’s just too bad“ employee Alexandra Zahrn said. “They have put a lot of work into this place and it’s gonna be a sad transition leaving and seeing all that work disappear.”

Another employee, Kyrsten Hoffman, hopes to return if Volumes does find a new location in Wicker Park.

Rebecca George said the store will continue to sell online and do book deliveries after the storefront shuts down.

“This is our community,” she said. “They support us.”

A volunteer returns a borrowed book to employees at Volumes Bookcafe on Friday, March 26, 2021.
A volunteer returns a borrowed book to employees at Volumes Bookcafe on Friday.
Zac Clingenpeel/Sun-Times