Chilly, occasionally rainy weather didn’t stop hundreds of Chicagoans and suburbanites from racing across the region on April 29 to visit at least 10 independently owned bookstores. Forest Park’s Centuries & Sleuths, 7419 Madison St., and Oak Park’s the Book Table, 1045 Lake St., benefitted.
Since 2014, a growing number of Chicago-area bookstores have teamed up to drive customers to each other’s stores. The promotions varied over the years, but the idea was generally that anyone who visited a certain number of bookstores would get discounts until the next Independent Bookstore Day.
This year, the group brought back the Bookstore Passport Challenge, where customers who spent at least $20 in a participating bookstore get a “passport” with names and addresses of all participants. Customers who get their passports stamped (or stickered) in nine more stores got 10% discounts and those who got stamps from 15 stores got 15% off.
One thing new this year was that winners were supposed to get pins. In a testament to Bookstore Day’s popularity, many stores ran out of them by the afternoon.
The first Bookstore Day was held on June 12, 2014. It included nine city bookstores, some of which have since closed or moved. The following year, the date was moved to coincide with the national Independent Bookstore Day, which launched separately in 2013.
Since 2015, some stores dropped in or out, and some suburban stores joined in. The event took a break in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. When the bookstore crawl returned in 2022, participants had to mark the stores they visited on their social media accounts.
The Book Table in Oak Park had more customers browsing than stopping by to get stamps. Owner Rachel Weaver said that Bookstore Day has been profitable for them.
“It’s always a good day,” she said. “We get a lot of people starting their book crawl at the suburbs. All of the [suburbanites] start here and move east to Chicago.”
At Centuries & Sleuths around noon, one customer came in to get a stamp, but a mother and a daughter stopped to look around and browse. Owner Augie Aleksy said Indepentent Bookstore Day has been good for his store, and he was pleasantly surprised to find that it was one of his most profitable days of 2022. This year, he said, was shaping up the same.
“I’m really surprised, and I shouldn’t be, how busy we were this morning,” said Aleksy, noting that he had participants from as far west as Naperville. Unlike some other bookstore owners, he wasn’t worried that the weather would keep customers away.
“Rain is the best time to spend in a bookstore,” he said.