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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

Book Store Veterans Team Up To Bring Community-Focused Madison Street Books To Booming West Loop

From New York Times bestsellers to lesser-known authors, booksellers Mary Mollman and Javier Ramirez aim to offer a diverse selection of books for children and adults and events for West Loop residents.

Booksellers Mary Mollman, left, and Javier Ramirez, right, are partnering up to open Madison Street Books in West Loop next year.
Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
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WEST LOOP —  When Madison Street Books opens next year, booksellers Mary Mollman and Javier Ramirez hope their independent shop will become an anchor for families in the growing West Loop neighborhood.

Since coming across the space at 1127 W. Madison St. this summer, Mollman and Ramirez have been hard at work to bring their vision of a community-based bookstore to life.  

“We want to be an anchor in the community,” Mollman said. “A place where people can come in and read, and check out the latest books. A spot for parents can bring their children during the day and evenings … A warm, welcoming neighborhood place.”

Business partner Ramirez, who has worked in the bookselling business for 25 years, thinks the cozy 1,500-square foot storefront will allow them to “foster community” and get people excited about books.

“I always likened it to a cigar shop where you walk in and people just talk about what you sell and what you are passionate about,” Ramirez said. “Those one-on-one meetings and conversations are what makes a really good bookstore.”

Ramirez thinks the future of bookstores are smaller-sized shops where they can cultivate these relationships with customers.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
Booksellers Mary Mollman, left, and Javier Ramirez, right, are partnering up to open Madison Street Books in West Loop next year.

Ramirez moved from California to Chicago 25 years ago to help open a Tower Records bookstore in Schaumburg. Most recently, Ramirez was a manager at Book Table in Oak Park for six years. Mollman previously worked at Booked, a children’s bookstore in Evanston.

The business partners met while working at the Book Stall in suburban Winnetka eight years ago. 

Now, as they work to curate the bookstore, Mollman and Ramirez have been taking cues from neighbors on what to offer in terms of both books and event programming — from storytelling time for children to conversations with authors

“We want to be the spot where you come when you’re looking for a book whether it’s for pleasure reading, for school, or catching up on the national political scene,” Mollman said. “Whatever it is, we want to be that spot.”

As they prepare for their February opening, Mollman and Ramirez will host book launch events every month at the store before the grand opening.

“We reached a point in our careers…that we both realized we were ready to open a bookstore. We fell on the space,” Mollman said.

After 25 years selling books, “there’s nothing I would rather do,” Ramirez said. 

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