Oak Park bookstore fights to stay afloat


Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses are struggling to stay afloat in a sea of wreckage.
The Oak Park Chamber of Commerce does have resources available for local businesses, including the Oak Park loan program. The funds for this business assistance program come from a federal grant, and so far over $350,000 have been loaned out to 67 qualified small businesses in Oak Park.
The Oak Park Village website states that in order for businesses to be eligible for this program, “businesses must have experienced and be able to prove a 30 percent or more loss in revenue, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, since March 15, 2020. Funds can be used for operating expenses including payroll, utilities, rent, etc. Funds cannot be used for equipment purchases, construction or expansion-related costs.” Loans can reach up to $10,000 and are available for registered local businesses that average annual gross business receipts of less than $2,000,000.
However, some local businesses have still had to resort to creating a gofundme, an online fundraiser that collects donations from people across the internet.
One of the most successful gofundme’s created by an Oak Park or River Forest business was that of The Book Table, a bookstore located in the heart of downtown Oak Park at 1045 Lake St. The store has been in the village since 2003, but now they are struggling to keep up with rent and taxes.
Rachel Weaver, founder and owner of The Book Table, created the gofundme on Jan 11th and offered a lengthy explanation as to why it was created. She writes “Web orders are extremely time consuming and labor intensive compared to in-store transactions, but during COVID, about 40% of our sales were coming from our website. The volume was more than we could handle while still accommodating for the in-person and phone traffic.” Managing both the web orders and in-person buyers during the pandemic ultimately became too stressful. The owners of the Book Table unfortunately had to turn away the online part of their business for the foreseeable future.
In early January, the financial problems that the Book Table had faced throughout the pandemic became far too pressing. Though Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans helped early on, The Book Table still had lots of inventory that needed to be sold. Weaver says on the gofundme page that she and her husband pay $18,000 a month in rent plus another $55,000 a year in property taxes. That is $271,000 on top of the additional expenses of running the store.
However, it seems like there is hope for the future of the Book Table, as since the gofundme has been created it has raised over $200,000! Overall there have been 2,600 donations, with the top donation totaling an astonishing $3,000. There have been 17 donations of at least $1,000 since the fundraiser was created in mid January.
Vaccine rollouts and a new administration are giving hope to the owners of the Book Table, but the store will have to limp to that future first. You can donate at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-the-book-table-survive-the-pandemic.