Chicago bookstore owner finds new home in Chesterton
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent July 30, 2013 10:10PM
Doug Wilson, owner of O'Gara and Wilson, Ltd., stands among unpacked books at the bookstore's new location in Chesterton. | Post-Tribune photo
For more on O’Gara and Wilson Ltd., go to www.ogaraand
Updated: September 1, 2013 6:24AM
CHESTERTON — Hyde Park’s loss is Chesterton’s gain.
O’Gara and Wilson Ltd., a used bookseller based in the Chicago neighborhood that’s home to the University of Chicago, will open in downtown Chesterton, at 223 Broadway, later this month.
The bookstore, established in 1882, bills itself as “Chicago’s oldest used bookstore,” and had a location in Chesterton in the early 1990s.
Owner Doug Wilson, who lives in Chesterton, said fees and taxes imposed by the city of Chicago made staying there increasingly difficult financially.
“The advantage to this building is, it is much more affordable. It’s not in the big city,” said Wilson, who owns the shop with his wife, Jill, and is a native of Chicago’s south side.
The old store, at 1448 E. 57th St., has closed as Wilson and his two sons move its many books to the Chesterton location, which formerly housed a computer store. The interior of the shop has been completely renovated, with exposed brick and finished wood floors.
The move, Wilson said, has advantages beyond escaping Chicago’s growing expenses. While the shop will be roughly the same size, at 2,400 square feet, it also has a dry basement that extends the length of the shop. Shelves are already in place for storage, and bags of books await unpacking downstairs.
Since there was no storage at the Chicago location, Wilson, who has lived in Chesterton for 20 years, had to pay for book storage on the Indiana side of the state line, another expense from which he will be free because of the move.
He also will be free of a two-hour round-trip commute, and will be able to walk to work in less than 5 minutes.
Given the complexity of moving and setting up some 30,000 books, as well as family commitments, Wilson said he expects the new store to open sometime in late August. He has put online book sales on hold during the move, but hopes to have those back up before the retail outlet opens its doors.
According to the O’Gara and Wilson website, www.ogaraandwilson.com, the bookstore got its start in 1882, when a Mr. Hewitt founded the original bookstore in Hyde Park. He ran the shop until the 1890s, when it became Woodworth’s. The store changed hands again before it was taken over by longtime Chicago bookseller Joseph O’Gara.
Wilson came on board in the early 1970s, after he was unable to find a job as an art teacher and started buying used books at the Salvation Army that he suspected had a high resale value.
“I had a love of books and didn’t have a lot of money,” he said, adding he could pay for the books he wanted by selling the others.
O’Gara was one of the booksellers Wilson went to for selling books, and O’Gara saw Wilson had a good eye. He took Wilson on as an apprentice in 1972. The two developed a partnership and, after O’Gara was diagnosed with lung cancer, Wilson became his caretaker and moved him to Chesterton shortly before O’Gara died in early 2006.
The store, which also offers up rare finds at auctions, buys its stock exclusively from private estates, and specializes in collectible books, first editions, those signed by the author, and other rarities. It also found a niche for scholarly material because it was so close to the University of Chicago, but Wilson said he would be expanding his inventory for his new market.
“I’ve always, as a bookseller, tried to be the bookstore that had all things for all people,” he said.
He is pleased with his new location, across from Thomas Centennial Park, and expects a steady stream of business, especially from the European Market on Saturdays and festivals held at the park.
Wilson said he has been trying to get out of Chicago for some time and while he didn’t mind the commute back and forth to Chesterton after he moved here, he still felt bound by the city.
“I’m finally, after almost 64 years, getting out of Chicago to a much nicer place,” he said.