CRYSTAL LAKE – Zac Colandrea immediately had a vision for the bookstore on Williams Street in downtown Crystal Lake.
Long floor-to-ceiling shelves made from reclaimed wood would line the walls. Library ladders would provide access. The children’s section at the front of the shop would have a couch, and each nook would have a comfy chair.
Colandrea hopes the store will become more of a gathering space for the community, a place where shoppers can pause and open one of the 20,000 or so volumes that are stacked on shelves, the floor, in baskets and behind other books. An additional 25,000 books, mostly used, wait in a back room and in the shop’s basement.
“We want to create a little more efficiency, and we want that feeling of, ‘It’s a bookshop,’” he said. “We want to smell the books.”
“Small-town, old-fashioned, charming, the customers love that,” added Sarah Carzoli, the store’s new manager.
Colandrea and his partner, Mike Dregalla, also of Crystal Lake, took ownership of the store, formerly Twice Told Tales, on Dec. 1. He’s renamed it Buy Local Books and hired Carzoli and her daughter to handle the day-to-day operations.
Colandrea sees the bookstore as a physical platform for their other business, Forward Motion, which he and Dregalla operate with a third partner, Michael Campell.
Forward Motion is an education consulting firm working to develop literacy products that combine technology, literacy and problem-solving, Colandrea said. The idea is to provide teachers with tools they can use to keep learning going while they’re working with other students.
Colandrea hopes to use the bookstore’s customers and the larger community to learn what they’re looking for, and use that as a jumping off point.
Colandrea is big into community involvement – even with the future look of the store.
After the bookstore’s new management settle in, those interested will get to vote on one of three layouts. He’s also trying out new, extended hours, opening Sundays and having longer hours during the week.
Colandrea also wants to partner with area schools and libraries and host workshops, author readings and readings for children.
“Our plan’s not to compete with Amazon,” Colandrea said. “We want to provide a good value for our community, and competing with Amazon is not our goal. Giving access to good content locally where you can go down the street and go into the store and physically leave with a book the same day you want it, that’s what our goal is.”
Buy Local Books’ model isn’t a new one, and according to industry watchers, it’s part of what may be turning the tide for independent bookstores.
If recent trends continue, it will push back what has been a steady decline since the mid-1990s.
The U.S. Census Bureau put the number of bookstores at 9,700 in 2008, its most recent statistic, down from 10,600 the year before.
Illinois has 253 independent and 40 chain bookstores, according to a 2013 survey by Publishers Weekly.
Large bookstore chains claimed 25 percent of spending on books in the third quarter this year, up from 20 percent over the same period last year, while sales through online retailers dropped, according to Publishers Weekly.
Buy Local Books
What: A new- and used-book store
Where: 61 N. Williams St. in Crystal Lake
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Information: Call 815-459-4343 or go to facebook.com/buylocalbooks.