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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

Pandemic Forced This West Loop Bookstore To Close Days After Grand Opening. Now, It’s Fighting To Survive

Only two days after opening Madison Street Books, owner Mary Mollman was forced to close as the stay at home order was issued. Mollman hopes a fundraiser can keep the independent shop open.

Madison Street Books is located at 1127 W. Madison St. in the West Loop.
Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
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WEST LOOP — An independent West Loop bookstore is raising money to stay open after an uncertain year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Only two days after opening Madison Street Books at 1127 W. Madison St., owner Mary Mollman was forced to close as the stay at home order was issued and COVID-19 swept through Chicago.

The shop’s long-planned, in-person events were held virtually as Mollman and her staff spent half of the year closed for indoor shopping while navigating ways to build the business. Now, one year later, Mollman has launched a GoFundMe fundraiser in hopes of keeping the bookstore afloat.

To donate to the GoFundMe, click here.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
Madison Street Books owner Mary Mollman has launched a GoFundMe fundraiser in hopes of keeping the bookstore afloat.

“After reviewing last year — and the numbers and the budget, we realized we won’t be able to [keep the shop open] unless we can find additional support,” Mollman said.

Government agencies have offered grants and loans to struggling small businesses. But the bookstore didn’t qualify for initiatives like the Paycheck Protection Program because it hadn’t been open for a year.

Now that the store has a year under its belt, Mollman plans to apply for assistance to forge ahead.

But between the slow months of January and February, the pandemic and brutal winter, Mollman said the shop won’t make it through the year unless it can “get some support sooner rather than later.”

Mollman said she’s spent personal funds to keep the store open and offset staff salaries over the past year. During the difficult time, Mollman herself hasn’t received a salary, she said.

From March to June, Madison Street Books was closed while fulfilling orders through delivery or shipping. Eventually, it opened to four shoppers at a time — with gloves and masks to keep the space safe for customers and staff.

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

Mollman said the year has been full of challenges, especially growing a customer base.

“Because we were new, we didn’t have the existing customer base,” Mollman said. “It was a huge uphill climb.”

Credit: Provided
Now, one year later, the owner of Madison Street Books has launched a GoFundMe fundraiser in hopes to help keep the bookstore afloat.

Mollman said it was “difficult decision” to launch the fundraiser.

“I didn’t do it lightly. It was a careful look at the numbers trying to determine how much I could put in from my personal funds,” she said.

Since launching the GoFundMe four days ago, the shop has received 100 donations, totaling more than $10,200. Mollman’s goal is to reach $50,000. 

Mollman sand it’s amazing to see how supportive neighbors have been.

“It’s blowing my mind. People have been so unbelievably generous, and it touches my heart,” the bookstore owner said.

Mollman thanked her “incredible staff” — Wayne Giacalone and Kaitlynn Cassady — for helping navigate the uncertain times.

The store’s owner also expressed gratitude and appreciation to the neighbors who supported and spread the news of the shop last year.

“We had a guardian angel who sent a check to us every month. …They weren’t even a customer. It was really humbling to see how people supported us,” she said. “The fact that we made it through the year that we made it through, we owe so much to our neighbors and friends.

“Were it not for the support that we already had, we never would have made it through the year.”

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