Home Bookstore Bridgeport Needs a Bookstore – Chicago Reader

Bridgeport Needs a Bookstore – Chicago Reader



Bridgeport finally gets a bookstore. For now, locals like me have to travel to Pilsen or Hyde Park to get our fix. But in a month or two, we can walk into a store on Halsted filled with some 60,000 hardcover and paperback books, on every subject imaginable. I can not wait.

Joe Judd has a place of honor in the history of Chicago bookstores. As the co-founder of Myopic Books some thirty years ago, he helped transform Wicker Park into a destination of choice for Chicagoans and visitors from everywhere.

A good bookstore is a cultural hub that exerts a magnetic pull on people who want more from life than just going through the motions. Myopic has had several addresses but has always been one of the focal points of the community. Judd is hoping his new store, dubbed Tangible Books by his wife and business partner, Lisa, will have a similar transformative effect on Bridgeport.

Judd’s journey back to Chicago has been a twisty one. He sold Myopic about 12 years ago and moved to a farm in Arkansas to raise his daughters. Several years later, he moved again to the area where he grew up, around Charleston, Illinois, and opened a bookstore. He named it Bob’s Bookstore after his father (a local staple) and the business thrived until the onset of COVID-19. When the opportunity presented itself for his daughters to attend a well-rated school in Chicago, Judd decided to return to town. With the help of his old friend Ed Marszewski of Maria’s and Marz Brewing, Judd found a store on Halsted near 33rd Street.

You might wonder why someone would open a second-hand bookstore in 2021. Most of the titles Judd will stock are likely available somewhere online, at even lower prices than what Tangible is sure to offer. If your mission is purely transactional, then a sprawling, subjectively organized maze of shelves won’t be your best bet. If, however, you are more interested in the unexpected discovery and experience concocted by a human being than an algorithm, then Tangible Books may soon be one of your favorite destinations in the city.

Judd tells me over the phone that he relies heavily on his customers to dictate the direction and shape of his bookstores. A customer will come in and ask for something Judd has never heard of. This will send it into a rabbit hole which could result in a whole new section being added to the piles. Judd credits his wife Lisa with the expansive kitchen section of his current store and expects Tangible to reflect the community of Bridgeport as the store becomes a mainstay along the region’s central shopping strip. He will share the block with a few Chinese restaurants, a flea market, a hardware store and various other commercial enterprises. The neighborhood is changing.

I’m guessing this change won’t play out exactly the same way it did in Wicker Park when Judd opened his first bookstore, but without a doubt his new store will have an effect on the character of Bridgeport. A bookstore tells passers-by that locals have curiosity and a certain intelligence. He greets visitors, telling them through his presence that we want them to spend time exploring here, rather than just lightening their wallets.

Before all of this happens, Judd must build new shelves, purchase signage, and haul his massive stock from Charleston. He started a GoFundMe campaign in order to help defray the costs of this massive undertaking. He tells me that he hopes to open his doors in October. But there’s a ton of work to do before that happens. He’s been commuting between Chicago and Charleston for weeks. Her family found a home a few blocks from the store and her daughters started their school year.

When I ask Judd about his favorite kind of book, he says modern fiction, but struggles to come up with a title. The first that comes to mind is Horten’s miraculous mechanisms, a popular 2011 children’s book by Lissa Evans that one of her daughters brought to her recently. This is a telling example of how his mind works. When asked to name a personal preference, he relies on one presented to him by someone else. He is open and curious about what is happening around him.

That’s why I know Tangible Books will fill a need in my neighborhood and we’ll have a say in what shape the store takes. No one can fully predict the character that an economically and demographically changing area, like Bridgeport now is, will ultimately take. But the type of bookstore Joe Judd helped create can only make a place more appealing in a number of ways. I’ll be one of the first to walk through the door when he returns his sign to “OPEN”.

Those interested in supporting Tangible Books can contribute to fundraising online at GoFundMe.