Chicago is a reading town. Reading towns demand good bookstores and it doesn’t get much better than Quimby’s. A landmark in Chicago’s literary scene for almost two decades, Quimby’s is the archetype for what a good bookstore should be: weird, intriguing, fun, surprising and a bit mysterious. Owner Eric Kirsammer answered a few questions about how Quimby’s achieved this level of awesomeness.
What’s the origin story of Quimby’s?
Quimbys was started in 1991 by Steven Svymbersky. He was doing a zine called Quimbys in Boston then he decided to move to Chicago and open a store by the same name. Steven sold the store to me in 1997.
What’s the curatorial process when choosing books to stock?
We look for any type of publication that is about things out of the mainstream. Anything weird and important. There are so many things being published that just do not get the exposure they deserve. For zines we take a very broad range of things on consignment. This allows us to carry a lot of different zines and allows someone just starting out to get their book on the shelf.
Quality writing in an interesting package. We do well with things that hit it on multiple fronts. Some of the books that we do well with are anything by Chris Ware, Dan Clowes or Dave Eggers.
Quimby’s has achieved this legendary status among independent bookstores. How did this happen and how do you maintain relevance in the age of Amazon?
We have stuck to our mission of carrying the offbeat and being very open to people just starting to publish. We also hold a lot of events which has built community support. We try to stock the books our customer wants. Quimbys is a niche bookstore are we have never had the desire to become mainstream.
Please describe the cat that lives in your store. If you don’t have a bookstore cat, please explain why.
We do not have a store cat for several reasons,
1. I would always be worried about the cat running out the door.
2. I don’t think the cat would get the attention it deserves.
3. Our store mascot is Chris Ware’s Quimby the mouse and cat and mice just do not mix.