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Evanston’s Beloved Bookman’s Alley Set To Close

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Bookman's Alley

Bookman’s Alley in downtown Evanston is set to close. (Credit: CBS)

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EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — Many people have tablets and e-readers on their holiday wish lists this year, and the book business has been taking a hit.

But as CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports, it’s not just corporate chains such as Borders that are being cast to history. A much-beloved used bookstore in downtown Evanston is also set to close its doors.

To find Bookman’s Alley, you have to veer off the beaten bath. The official address is 1712-Rear Sherman Ave. The location is the alley behind the old Varsity Theater building at 1710 Sherman Ave., now home to a Gap and a furniture design showroom.

The operator of Bookman’s Alley is a true bookman himself.

“I love books,” said Roger Carlson.

Back in 1980, he was tired of doing things he didn’t like, and he got into the business of fine used books.

“It was time to make a choice of something I really enjoyed,” Carlson said. He said he was never bothered by working 10- to 12-hour days seven days a week.

But every good thing has an end, and Carlson will soon be closing up shop. He is 83 years old and has some health issues, and he says the book business isn’t what it used to be.

“The old joke, of course – how does a book dealer become a millionaire?” Carlson said. The answer? “Start with $2 million.”

Hear Carlson, and you know why his customers are so sad to see him write the final chapter on the Alley.

“Each room is very compelling and charming, and warm,” said customer Ricki Rosengren.

They love the nooks and crannies full of interesting and quirky artifacts, including a painting by Ernest Hemigway’s mother.

And of course, there’s all the reading material, now 30 percent off. You can find everything from British essayists – old, old volumes – to a book on, of all things, chow chows.

“It’s like a fairytale,” said customer Ruslana Litinskaia. “You come in, and you go to a different world.”

Or at the very least, you hunker down in a comfortable chair.

“Well, I hoped they’d be comfortable and want to spend hours here looking at books, browsing, reading, talking with me,” Carlson said.

Carlson said he is glad he made the career choice to open Bookman’s Alley way back when.

He was happier for it, he says. “Oh my, yes.”

Carlson says he would be open to the idea of someone buying Bookman’s Alley, but for now, the plan is to sell off everything in the store, and then close sometime after the holidays.

His customers are sad, but they say they don’t know if anyone can do as good a job as Roger Carlson.

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