About This Blog

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not on board with the whole ebook thing. I enjoy books in all their formats. But there is nothing quite like a bookstore with its neatly arranged shelves of books and artfully created displays of new arrivals, best sellers, and suggested reading. I especially enjoy discovering small, independent bookstores and have made it my mission to visit and report back on as many of these gems as I can. That is my focus, but there is really nothing that is off limits as long as it is about books or reading. Hope you enjoy my blog and come back often.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Historic Neighborhood Icon

Sandmeyer's Bookstore
714 S Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL 60605

I loved my job as a high school librarian; don't get me wrong. But when my husband traveled for business, I was rarely free to tag along. Now that I'm retired, I am more able to accompany him, a perk of retirement that I have enjoyed on a few delightful occasions. (See Hong Kong, Washington, and San Francisco.) Recently a business conference presented me with the possibility of three days in Chicago, a prospect I could not turn down.

Since the conference was on a Monday, we decided to head out on Saturday and spend the prior weekend in the Windy City. Saturday evening was filled with a leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk followed by a delicious meal and terrific music at the House of Blues. (I highly recommend the Voodoo Shrimp and Loretta's meatloaf.) And Sunday? Well, that turned out to be a perfect bookstore day, and this time my husband decided to tag along with me. First stop: Sandmeyer's Bookstore in Printers Row.

"The First Impression" mural on the Franklin Building
This historic neighborhood is home to some significant pieces of architecture that thankfully survived the urban renewal wrecking ball in the 1960's. As we headed up the street to the former bindery building that now houses Sandmeyer's, we couldn't help but stop and admire the Franklin Building where the catalog and booklet printing company once produced catalogs for the likes of Sears and Montgomery Ward. Still gracing the face of the building is a lovely mural entitled “The First Impression” appropriately depicting the printing of the Gutenberg Bible.

Store owner, Ellen Sandmeyer
What more suitable business to anchor this iconic neighborhood with its roots in printing than a bookstore. Directly next door in the beautifully maintained Rowe Building, Sandmeyer's serves that function nicely. A true “mom and pop” shop, Sandmeyer's Bookstore has been owned since its beginning all the way back in 1982 by husband and wife team, Ellen and Ulrich Sandmeyer. People after my own heart, they were both once librarians. Ellen was a law librarian while Ulrich headed up a branch library.

This spacious store looks exactly like you might expect a bookstore in an old bindery to look with high ceilings, rough beams, open ductwork, exposed brick walls, and creaky wooden floors. I could practically smell old paper and ink.

Neatly arranged rows of books are accented here and there with wooden chairs for resting and browsing. There is a children's area for the younger set, and an extensive stationery selection. I did some browsing of my own and was pleased to find an Images of America publication, Printers Row Chicago. Not until the following week after we returned home and I had time to peruse this book, did I discover that Sandmeyer's is prominently featured in it. I am enjoying learning about the history of this special neighborhood and the long-time role that Sandmeyer's Bookstore has played in it.

As we were finishing up our visit, Ellen told us about another special aspect of this landmark neighborhood, the Printers Row Lit Fest, the Midwest's largest outdoor literary festival. The Sandmeyers were on the founding committee for this festival which attracts booksellers from across the country as well as noted authors, not to mention thousands of book lovers.

In the background you can see my husband Jim doing a little browsing.
Wow! How did I not know about this before? So happy I know now. I have one new thing to add to my bucket list. I hope to come back to the Windy City in the future to visit Sandmeyer's Bookstore again and attend this spectacular festival.

Note: You can also find Sandmeyer's on Facebook:

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