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Forgotten Chicago posted this photo on their Facebook page soon after I finished my research on Kroch’s, and was writing the scene I have used for this post. I almost cried, I was that grateful. Researching the publishing business for Facing East led me to this piece of Chicago history-Kroch’s, a bookstore I remember well.
“In 1995, I was visiting Louisa and her family when Kroch’s & Brentano’s closed its doors. I made a special pilgrimage downtown to attend the final book signing they were having. The author was heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman who was promoting his autobiography, By George. I even remember the name of the employee, Hans Summers, who is credited with waiting on the final customer; I’ve always thought he would make a great premise for a short story.”
“Why in the world did they close, the bookstore was a destination?”
“Believe it or not, the ‘full service’ that Kroch’s prided themselves on could no longer compete with discount bookstores like Crown books that opened a few blocks north. That last night, I stood with a small group of people outside on the street like a group of mourners. There was an older woman who talked to us in a quiet, refined voice. She reminded me of Barbara Bush with her white hair and a double strand of pearls. I still remember most of what she said.”
Katherine made her voice sound wispy. “My dears, we’re saying goodnight to a piece of Chicago history.” All of us nodded in agreement and murmured things like, “It’s such a shame.” From my new novel, Facing East