Hyde Park bookstore O’Gara & Wilson closes after decades in operation — Move to Indiana prompted, in part, by ‘toxic environment for small businesses,’ owner says
Doug Wilson, owner of O’Gara and Wilson bookstore in the Hyde Park neighborhood, says a “toxic environment for small businesses” is partly to blame for him closing his shop, which has been a fixture in the neighborhood for more than 50 years. (Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune / June 25, 2013)
At the O’Gara & Wilson bookstore in the Hyde Park neighborhood, Rory Preston, 25, was packing more than 27,000 books into 900 brown paper bags Tuesday. Each bag was to contain 35 books of the same genre.
Store owner Doug Wilson, 63, was on a ladder with a drill, trying to get the lighting off the ceiling. Removing the wooden shelves was on the to-do list.
The two had been at it since Sunday, when the store, which specialized in used books and was a fixture in Hyde Park for more than 50 years, officially closed. Wilson cited a restrictive business environment in the neighborhood, compounded by dwindling readership, as reasons for the closing.
“The changes in the book trade with the advent of Internet book sales have altered the number and the vitality of bookstores that still exist,” Wilson said at the 1448 E. 57th St. location, which had served the likes of University of Chicago students and faculty to renowned writer Saul Bellow.
Wilson has seen the business shrink irreversibly but believes “there is life in bookstores, but we will continue seeing less of them in select communities that don’t support the culture.”
His plan is to set up shop in Chesterton, Ind., where he lives. He will run the business with his wife, Jill, and is hoping the town’s annual European Market, held between May and October, will provide the boost his business needs.
National chains are hardly immune to the same kinds of forces that helped prompt Wilson’s store to close.