As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. Likewise, when life gives you rain on the first day of a long holiday weekend, you head to Anderson’s Bookshop in Downtown Naperville.
As was the case for most Napervillians today, visions of spending a warm and sunny day outdoors with the children turned to cabin spring fever as rain consumed the day. Being the quick-thinking parent I am in having my 3 year-old all to myself today, our plans were quickly modified to include a trip into Anderson’s for some new children’s books.
In addition to having one of the best public library systems in the country, one of 101 reasons I’m proud to live in Naperville is the fact we have a thriving independent bookstore in our community which has carved out a strong niche amongst the modern-world of big box coffee cafe bookstores.
Anderson’s Bookshop has been around long enough to see the many changes and transformations Downtown Naperville has gone through over the past 25 years. Anderson’s is an intimate setting for book lovers of all ages with a strong sense of community TLC. Whether it be the multitude of staff picks/reviews, the presence of local books/authors, the substantial children’s section, the Thomas the Tank Engine play area, interesting life-like stuffed animals sitting around or the top notch service you receive from experienced staff who are clearly passionate about books, Anderson’s is in a league of their own amidst modern chain bookstores.
Visits by high profile authors for book signings are quite common at Anderson’s and you can find a list of upcoming events at http://www.andersonsbookshop.com/events.php. Even more, autographed copies of books always seem to be easy to find. One thing you won’t find at Anderson’s, thankfully, is a coffee cafe; however, never fear as there is a Starbucks just a few doors down on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Main Street.
Each day, our world continues to become more and more homogenized with an array of predictable options and usual suspects when it comes to business-to-consumer commerce. I recall a college sociology class in which part of the required reading list was a book entitled, “The McDonalidization of America”, which uses the McDonalds model of consistency and predictability to address the growing homogenization of society. That was years ago and if it was to be re-written today it would likely be entitled, “The Starbucksization of America”.
To provide additional illustration, the most extreme recent example I experienced was during a trip to see a Broadway show in NYC back in April. On the way to the show, we encountered the theatre district’s newest restaurant nestled amongst the historic old theaters… Applebees Neighborhood Bar & Grill. At the time, I couldn’t make up my mind as to what was more sad… the fact that there was an Applebees in the heart of the theater district or the fact the theater district Applebees gets swarmed with enough business to survive amidst Times Square real estate premiums. Of course, having worked for a short period of time in a very different Times Square over 15 years ago, it is the infusion of corporate America which gave Times Square it’s re-birth. I do not have a vendetta against Starbucks or Applebees. As a matter of fact, we find ourselves as periodic patrons of both businesses here in Naperville; however, it’s the potential extinction of independent small businesses that I worry about. While I think it’s good to have a solid balance between well-known chain businesses and independent small business, I worry about what might happen to Naperville if Downtown becomes nothing but the same predictable collection of chains which can be found in Woodfield, Skokie or even Downtown Chicago for that matter. Naperville is a treasured niche thriving in an increasingly homogenized world, but we could very well lose it all if we do not support small independent businesses at the same time we are frequenting the chain businesses.
Added pressure continues to mount as numerous Chicago suburbs strive to reposition their dying downtowns through their own brand of urban re-development renaissance. These days, it seems as though everyone is trying to replicate the type of experience Naperville has made famous. As time goes on, Naperville will see more competition from neighboring suburbs for the charming “Main Street” downtown community experience. This is why we must continue to support our unique “destination” independent small businesses while at the same time enjoying the familiarity of corporate chains.
Anderson’s Bookshop is located at 123 West Jefferson Avenue. Their website can be found at http://www.andersonsbookshop.com .
To my son, I hope he continues to enjoy the three books we purchased today. To the staff of Anderson’s, I apologize again for the small counter display my son knocked over during checkout… keep up the great work and be encouraged by the mark you continue to make on our community.