Anderson’s Bookshop celebrates four decades in Downers Grove

Anderson’s Bookshop has survived a lot since it branched out from its original Naperville store to open a second location in downtown Downers Grove in 1980.

Most recently, the family-owned bookstore has had to weather the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the Downers Grove store at 5112 Main St. were delayed until this year.

“Everything was so complicated last year,” said Charlie Wilkins, a sixth-generation Anderson’s Bookshop family member and manager of the Downers Grove store. “We were so focused on limiting customers entering the store that 2021 felt like a better decision.”

Anderson’s Bookshop traces its book-selling roots to 1875 at W.W. Wickel Pharmacy, now Oswald’s Pharmacy, before a stand-alone Naperville book store opened in 1964.

In the 1990s, Anderson’s Bookshop’s stiffest competition came from big-box retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Borders. Then there was the onslaught of online retailers such as Amazon.

“One of the big things that has really helped us over the years is the author events that we hold,” Wilkins said. “It’s one of the main things we’re known for.”

Kathleen March, Anderson’s children’s manager in Downers Grove for the past two decades, credits the staff’s in-store programming as another contributor to the store’s longevity. For example, March curated children’s literature series such as “How to Raise a Global Citizen” and “Raising a Resilient Child” to serve as conversation starters for parents and kids.

“That’s really what sustained us during this age of all the events being virtual,” March said. “The community still thinks of us, remembers us and realizes that we’re more than just a place to come shop.”

Both March and Wilkins also credit Downers Grove leadership for helping to create a vibrant downtown of largely independent shops and restaurants.

“We also have a village council and a mayor that shops at the local businesses,” March said. “I’ve seen this through the years. They don’t just support us with words. They support us with their actions.”

For the anniversary celebration, a limited number of commemorative wooden bookmarks have been produced as carved keepsakes showing the store’s exterior. The bookmarks are available for $6.99 each, while supplies last, or are free when customers make purchases of $40 or more.

“We’re also going to have free book-related merchandise that customers can take,” said Wilkins, noting that some publisher swag was held back from April when the bookstore typically gives away freebies as part of Independent Bookstore Day.