NASCAR races generally have no effect on book sales, but last weekend’s controversial street race in Chicago’s Loop July 1-2 had a negative impact that turned into a positive for a Windy City independent. Exile at Bookville, located on the second floor of the historic Beaux Arts Building on S. Michigan Avenue, with views of the 2.2 mile circular route. While Exile in Bookville lost about $15,000 in sales over the four days during and immediately after the races because it closed its doors to customers, local authors, customers and even other booksellers stepped up. mobilized to try to ease the financial burden of running on the store.
The total amount lost to racing, said Kristin Enola Gilbert, one of the store’s co-owners. P.W., is difficult to pin down since Exile in Bookville not only lost money during the race, but also lost business several weeks before the race. She said not only were there street closures due to construction along the route, deterring customers from visiting the store, but planned author events during the second half of the June had to be canceled. “We couldn’t have events because there was constant hammering outside our building,” she said, noting that the store usually hosts three or four author events each week for the summer months.
Although July 4 weekend in Chicago is traditionally the busiest weekend of the summer for downtown retailers and other businesses, including Exile in Bookville, Gilbert said he doesn’t There was no other alternative than to close for the weekend as well as Monday and Tuesday. “It was our choice not to be open, but it really wasn’t a choice,” Gilbert said, describing a perfect storm of inaccessibility on July 1 and 2, with Michigan Avenue closed to traffic, barriers of 10 feet lining the sidewalks. only intermittent hotspots, as well as ear-splitting noises and vibrations.
“We’re not unhappy with NASCAR,” Gilbert said. “We are just unhappy with the way the city (government) has handled the situation,” noting that the former mayor signed an agreement. three year contract with NASCAR. “The current mayor is going to lose a lot of votes if he lets this happen again. Businesses have lost,” she said.
After Gilbert and co-owner Javier Ramirez announced on social networks Friday that Exile in Bookville would be closed for the next four days and why, supporters of the store rallied. Local authors like Rebecca Makkai and Daniel Kraus have urged their fans to shop online at Exile. “We received more online orders in these four days than in the last two years,” Ramirez said Wednesday morning. Of the 150 online orders processed Wednesday morning, several came from other booksellers across the country, ranging from Emily Russo and Josh Christie of Print in Portland, Maine. to Spencer Ruchti of Third Place Books in Seattle.
“We were blown away by the reaction to our social media post,” Gilbert said. “We didn’t expect it.” Ramirez added: “Customers, new and old, have been supportive; it almost made us cry from Friday afternoon until this morning.