Kammer designs the window displays at the bookstore

On a recent trip up north, I listened again to a recording of The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.  It was a timely reminder that we find what we search for at the place we left.  And even though what we needed was right there at the onset, the journey brought us to appreciate the treasure we could have had all along.

I share these words because yesterday I found myself in the Book Beat at the intersection of Greenfield Road and Lincoln Street in Oak Park.  I was kitty-corner from the apartment where I lived as a child. Since then, I have lived in other parts of Michigan, New Hampshire and Minnesota and traveled to almost every continent. I have developed a deep appreciation for books.

I love the copy of Master and Margarita bought for me by my father in Ukraine, the collection of photography I bought on the streets of Amsterdam, and I am still spellbound by the M.I.L.K. books I was introduced to during my travels in New Zealand.  All these places where I have sought books … and yet yesterday was my first time walking into Book Beat across the street from where I once lived and still frequently drive past.  What took me so long?

Book Beat is the very treasure of legends.  The kind of bounty one holds tight with both arms in gratitude.

Colleen Kammer and Cary Loren, the lovely and knowledgeable owners, were more than kind in welcoming me into their store. The two shared stories about not just Book Beat, but the whole Book Beat family. Colleen probably never says, “Oh, here’s a book I like.” No, she tells me about how Rick Lieder and Helen Frost, the photographer and the poet who wrote and illustrated a book together conceived the idea at Book Beat. She shared story after story about the lives of the authors of the books Book Beat carries. They are her friends.

Creating a loving and welcoming space does not stop within the walls of Book Beat. I stood on the sidewalk in front of the store with Colleen. She pointed out for me places where she has beautified the endless concrete by planting flowers. Her creativity also shines through with the window displays she designs that are executed by Stephen Dueweke. The detail is exquisite!  Stephen said he uses oils and water-based pastels and special techniques to bring ideas to life.

I asked Colleen and Cary what words they would like to share with the community on reaching Book Beat’s 35th anniversary.

Colleen volunteered the words of a Book Beat longtime customer and friend. She told me how the obituary for avid book collector Toby Holtzman conveyed his message for our community and future generations: “Read to your children and grandchildren. Bring them to the library and bookstores.”

On Aug. 27, from noon-5 p.m., Book Beat is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a party people will talk about for years. There will be authors, music, food and lots of books — many on discount.

Let us all take to heart Colleen and Cary’s wisdom, “Books are about possibilities.” Join in celebrating Book Beat, our community’s treasure!


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