When Homewood residents talk about what businesses they would like to see in town, one idea comes up consistently: a book store.
It looks like that wish is about to come true.
Keith Lewis, owner of Bookie's New and Used Books in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood, said he signed a lease last week on a Ridge Road store front in downtown Homewood.
The store will be at 2015 Ridge Road, formerly Medina Casa Fine Art Gallery. Depending on how the build-out goes, he hopes for a summer opening.
Lewis is the third owner of Bookie's, which opened in 1989. He bought the store in 2015 and moved to a new, larger location in 2017 because he needed more space to provide a place for the kind of events book lovers love: book clubs, readings, book signings and similar gatherings.
He described as an example of the store's activities one of his favorite book clubs, which only chooses books if they can line up the author to speak with the group, in person or by videoconferencing. He said the group has met writers from as far away as England and Australia.
His goal with the Homewood store is to use what he learned about building community at the Beverly store and enhance it, creating a place designed to host events.
"I have a feeling events will be even bigger in Homewood," he said.
The circumstances that led Lewis to Homewood are tinged with a hint of destiny.
His family moved around frequently when he was young, and they lived in Homewood twice, once when he was in the seventh grade — he attended James Hart School — and once when he was in high school — he attended Homewood-Flossmoor High School for a year.
In recent years, he lived in Chicago, serving for a time as an English teacher in the Chicago Public School system. But he remembered Homewood fondly.
Not long ago, he offered to order a book for a customer who couldn't find what he wanted in the store. The customer declined, saying he wasn't from the neighborhood.
He was from Homewood.
"I said, 'Wow, Homewood. If I could open another store, there are two places I would think about doing it, and one of them is Homewood,'" Lewis said. "Literally the next day, (Homewood) Mayor Hofeld walked into the store and introduced himself."
Hofeld said on Saturday that he was in the Beverly area that day making sales calls and decided to stop at Bookie's and see if the owner had ever considered opening another store.
There was no apparent connection between the customer and Hofeld, Lewis said.
"That's too much of a coincidence to ignore," he said. "It's a little bit of a destiny kind of thing. I wasn't really looking to expand, I was just thinking 'Wouldn't it be nice.'"
Now, a few weeks later, that expansion is happening.
Homewood Economic Development Director Angela Mesaros then invited Lewis to attend the village's biennial economic development breakfast. During that event, Lewis talked with a number of local businesspeople about available locations and went on a tour with village officials afterward.
The place on Ridge Road was the most appealing, in part, because of the volume of foot traffic there, and because the space appeared well suited to his vision for the store, but he was also impressed with the business context downtown.
"I was impressed with the kind of businesses that were popping up there, and I could kind of see how a book store would fit in," he said.
Hofeld agreed. He has long had a book store near the top of his wish list, almost since the beginning of his tenure as mayor two decades ago.
"It's another good use in the downtown area," he said. "People have been clamoring for years for a book store."
Lewis noted that the results of an online search for independent book stores near Homewood lists his Beverly store as the closest. It is 12 miles away.
"That makes no sense," he said. "I think there's probably a need. A book store brings a lot to a community."