MEET YOUR MERCHANT
Susan Elmore of Jane Addams Book Shop
Jane Addams Book Shop is a locally-owned, independent book store in Downtown Champaign that has been in business since 1984. With more than 70,000 titles, Jane Addams Book Shop is well-stocked with sections that span fifteen separate rooms on three floors. CCP spoke with owner Susan Elmore.
Who started Jane Addams Book Shop and how did you get involved?
Jane Addams was started by Flora Faraci in Chicago in the 1980s. It was a feminist book store she owned and operated with a friend of hers. When Flora’s husband moved to Champaign to start a restaurant, she relocated as well and rented space to sell books in the current shop location. We bought Jane Addams from her in December 2009.
What’s your role at the store?
My main role is visioning of the shop; we want to create an experience for our customers that meets what they are looking for. With that, my role involves making the space comfortable and easy to browse. I bring in new books and keep the place clean. I also oversee our marketing and advertising.
How has the store changed in the past 10 years?
It’s more organized and the space is much more open. Our inventory is now all online – which took eight years to complete! About one third of our business is online sales which we use to keep the brick and mortar operation going.
Why attracted you to running a small business?
I was drunk! (laughs) My husband and I were sitting across the street at Boltini’s one evening (now Watson’s Shack & Rail) and Flora’s son mentioned that she would be looking to sell the business but that she felt strongly the purchaser should keep it a book store. I mentioned I would be interested in buying the business as a retirement project. And that led to the eventual sale.
What’s it like being in business with family members?
Judy is a wonderful daughter-in-law. I can’t believe how well we get along. Judy’s background is in library science. The arrangement works – it’s been fabulous for our family.
What else do you do in your time away from the shop?
I’m a nurse at Carle part-time. I spend a lot of time playing with my two grandsons. They’re my heart. I’m also a knitter and a crafter. Don (my husband) and I enjoy traveling when we can.
What are you most excited about for Downtown Champaign in the next 10 years?
Any growth downtown is exciting. A new hotel, new plaza would be great. I’d also love to see more retail.