O’Gara and Wilson closing up

By ANDREW HOLZMAN
Herald Intern

Hyde Park bookshop O’Gara and Wilson, 1448 E. 57th St., will pack up its books and leave for Indiana by August. The store, according to its website, traces its lineage back to 1882. Douglas Wilson, who shares the shop with his wife Jill, is the current owner.  

Wilson attributed the move to two overarching factors: change in the bookselling industry and high overhead in the city.

Wilson said that, although his landlord had done everything possible to keep him in Hyde Park, overhead has been too high. City-levied fees for awnings and air-conditioner inspections were examples of what he called “endemic” problems. He also said that his new location in Indiana would provide customers with unmetered parking, something he hopes will make browsing easier.

“[The city] works against the people and it works against itself, because I’m out of here,” Wilson said. He added that he doesn’t hold a grudge against the Hyde Park or university communities, which he said gave him a “great run.”

His new location, featuring a back room for sequestering books to be sold online, will be better set up for what he says is a new era in bookselling. In recent years, traffic in the store has been low. Wilson said that on many days he closes with just 20 or 30 dollars in his cash register. About 25 percent of his business is done online, and with the move he hopes to increase that number.

“I’ve had to throw in a lot of my own personal money [to the bookshop] — those funds aren’t limitless,” he said.

Wilson’s new shop will be in his hometown of Chesterton, an easier commute for the 63 year old, who called the ride to Hyde Park “somewhat onerous.” Wilson ran a bookshop there before in the late 1990s. 

The move will be emotional for Wilson, who began in Hyde Park in 1972 as an apprentice for then owner Joseph O’Gara. The bookstore was then located just down the street from where it is now.

“It’s very comforting to come back to a place you’ve been for 40 years,” he said. “It’s going to be a very difficult transition to wake up in the morning and not come to Hyde Park.” One of the hardest parts for Wilson, he said, will be missing out on a breath of “Hyde Park air.”

Wilson, who will manage the new shop with his wife, will leave behind two staff members in Hyde Park. The store will offer a 25 percent discount until its move to the new address, 223 Broadway St. in Chesterton.

a.holzman@hpherald.com