Squeezed between a restaurant and an herbal apothecary, the shop is a romance reader’s heaven, offering book-related posters and apparel in addition to the wall of romance books.
Romancing Roscoe Village: The Last Chapter Book Shop Opens to Inspire the Community’s Inner Romantic
“Hey main character!” greets a sign on an easel in the entrance of The Last Chapter Book Shop, which opened on Sept. 2. Squeezed between a restaurant and an herbal apothecary, the store is a romance reader’s heaven, offering book-related posters and apparel in addition to the wall of romance books.
Owner Amanda Anderson said she opened her store, located at 2013 W. Roscoe St., to create a place to celebrate romance readers and encourage others to embrace the romance genre. Anderson said a genre-specific bookstore allows for tailored recommendations larger bookstores may not be able to provide.
“We can truly celebrate so many aspects of romance because that is all that we are,” Anderson said.
The store began as an online shop in December 2021, specializing in author and trope-themed subscription boxes. After finding a location for her vision in Roscoe Village, Anderson opened The Last Chapter.
Anderson encourages community participation by asking customers’ trope and author preferences as well as feedback during checkout so she can add them to the stock. The other half of Anderson’s recommendations come through publishing houses and local author pitches.
The shop covers nearly every subgenre imaginable — fantasy, dark romance, small-town, clean romance, sports and more. In addition to these genres, Anderson said she strives to maintain an inclusive inventory of authors and stories.
“A lot of stores, while they may have romance, they can’t get into the nitty-gritty of what romance is the way we can, where we can celebrate things like BIPOC and LGBTQ+,” Anderson said.
For customers less captivated by the books, Anderson created a space in her shop for non-readers to feel comfortable. Three changing rooms from the previously housed boutique were turned into photo opportunities, each with a different theme and personality.
“I wanted to have at least one aspect of the store that if you aren’t necessarily a reader yet, or you’re not really into romance yet, you can still come and feel so welcome to this space,” Anderson said.
The booths invite customers to engage by asking them to write their fictional crush on a paper heart or their current top read of 2023 on a chalkboard wall.
Second-year Annika Wilhelm said she agrees with the concept of finding something for everyone within the shop. Wilhelm said even non-readers can find something to enjoy in the shop.
Wilhelm, an avid romance reader, said she appreciates the specificity provided by the shop. She said she enjoys finding books on her wishlist she couldn’t get from a retail store.
“They have the books that romance readers know about and want to read, so it makes it easy for specific romance readers to find what they’re looking for and have the experience of being in a bookshop and not having to order it from Amazon or something,” Wilhelm said.
Even though she prefers a Kindle to hard copies of books, Wilhelm said she plans to frequent the shop due to its friendly environment and wanting to support local bookstores.
Both Anderson and Wilhelm hope to see more niche and genre-specific bookstores around Chicago because they offer more for the reading community as a whole.
“I think we’re going to see a lot more genre-based stores because people love what they love and they’re very hardcore about it,” Anderson said. “I don’t think people realize how big book communities are and how many genres they crossover, and that people are very strongly opinionated about what they love.”
As The Last Chapter’s popularity grows, Anderson said she hopes to have an influence on both the reading community and her local community of Roscoe Village by co-existing with other bookstores in the neighborhood.
“We have a great bookstore a few blocks down called Roscoe Books that truly has a little bit of everything,” Anderson said. “I think it’s really cool that we can coexist in the same neighborhood and celebrate each other through sharing customers and just being friendly faces in the neighborhood.”
“It has been fun to see some customers traveling between the two stores and visiting both,” owner of Roscoe Books Erika VanDam said. “We are doing two different things and there doesn’t appear to be a whole ton of overlap at this point between the inventory we carry, the kinds of books that we’re selling, so I absolutely believe in a world in which we can co-exist and happily be successful and support each other in that way.”
Anderson said despite minor backlash when a disgruntled passerby criticized the propriety of romantic content during the grand opening, the community rallied around the store and continues to support and encourage her.
“Even before I opened it, a lot of people were like, ‘That’s never going to last, it’s a romance bookstore, it’s not going to make it,’” Anderson said. “ But we’re thriving now, so let the haters hate.”
A welcoming environment for readers and non-readers alike, the opening of The Last Chapter adds something new to the community of Roscoe Village.
The Last Chapter Book Shop is open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Featured image courtesy of Xavier Barrios / The Phoenix