A self-described neighborhood bookstore is coming to Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills with its biggest expansion yet.
Barbara's Bookstore, which opened in 1963 on Wells Street in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood, will debut Wednesday in the space previously occupied by Barnes & Noble, which in October moved to a new spot at the Mellody Farm retail center directly east across Milwaukee Avenue.
Joining Barbara's Bookstore in the expansive 29,000-square-foot, two-story space will be Hansa Coffee Roasters, a specialty roaster/retailer with cafes in Libertyville and Lake Bluff. It replaces Starbucks, which moved with Barnes & Noble to its smaller, prototype location.
"We saw this as a unique opportunity," said Hansa co-owner Kevin Kane.
The draw for Barbara's is expected to provide shoppers with a sense of place and service that can't be experienced online.
"Barbara's is bringing a local neighborhood independent bookseller mentality to a monster-sized space," said Don Barliant, company president.
"Our passion is books, the kind you have to balance on your stomach in bed," he said. "We have spent more than 50 years taking up opportunities that have been presented to us. Hawthorn Mall is the latest."
Barbara's also has locations in Macy's on State Street and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, The Glen Town Center in Glenview, Burr Ridge Village Center, O'Hare International Airport, and South Station in Boston.
Barliant said a Hawthorn representative had seen and liked the Burr Ridge store and approached him about filling the Barnes & Noble gap. Most large malls feel a bookstore is a necessity, he said, and finding experienced operators is difficult.
The Hawthorn Mall store will be at least twice as big as Barbara's next biggest, Barliant said. Since the space was turned over Nov. 1, 27 mostly local booksellers have been hired and work has been ongoing to open in time for the holidays.
"We are going to try to build a home away from home of epic proportions," he said.
Barnes & Noble's new home is 17,400 square feet. The substantial downsizing combined the best elements of its new store concepts, the company said.
Barliant said he knows the area well, as his sister lived in Lincolnshire for decades. Hawthorn Mall has upscale demographics, he said, and Barnes & Noble had "very successful" years there.
Hansa opened in early 2013 across from the Metra station in downtown Libertyville and opened a second location about two years ago in Lake Bluff.
Hansa's Kane said he also was contacted by Hawthorn and said the predicted demise of brick and mortar malls is overhyped. Kane said he used to live in Old Town and has frequented Barbara's since 1980.
"I'm familiar with them and what they do," he said. "I've personally been looking for a bookstore like that (Barbara's) in Lake County and have been unable to find one."