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Tough Times, Similar Requests from Two Long Standing Businesses

Posted by Mike G on October 04, 2010

I have an affinity for nearly all types of bookstores – even large corporate book peddlers such as Barnes & Noble or Borders.  I love entering these places and simply browsing the shelves, and invariably I’ll end up purchasing a book or a magazine.  On rare occasions I actually read the publication.

But consider the penultimate form of book lover’s experience: the independent (aka “used”) bookstore.

According to Matt, one of the owner’s of Armadillo’s Pillow at 6753 North Sheridan, Rogers Park used to have four independent book stores.  Tragically, through the advent of technology and a change in people’s tastes, independent bookstores are less busy. Many are closing.

That is sad.

While driving north on Sheridan Road last Friday afternoon, I found a parking space in front of Armadillo’s Pillow. I grabbed the space and entered the store, which seemed busy, with a half dozen patrons in it. Shortly after I walked in, an attractive middle-aged woman entered, clutching two used hard cover books.  As she engaged in a conversation with Matt, who was behind the counter, I could detect her Italian accent.  I overheard them discussing the store credit she would receive for submitting these books. The woman then walked directly to a specific section of the store, grabbed a book that she obviously already knew was there, and she proceeded directly back to the cash register to complete her transaction.

For some reason, I found this entire exchange to be interesting. It affirmed that I am not alone in feeling a special lure for used bookstores – that, in fact, many people have far more intimate experiences with their favorite stores.

I decided to buy a book that interested me – a collection of essays by historians who describe “What If” scenarios – “Had Chiang Kai Check refrained from attacking Manchuria in 1946, then … “ (You might wonder who reads this kind of stuff… Well, I do. At least a few chapters.)

While Matt was processing my payment, I noticed a flier sitting on the check out counter that explained that the store is experiencing tough financial times. The flier encouraged the store’s patrons to consider helping them out by purchasing memberships. I inquired, and Matt described to me the store’s financial plight. Regretfully, these tough times require that an owner make a bold request – one that Matt admits he feels uncomfortable making. In a sense, he is asking the community to help him out – that after 17 relatively successful years serving the community, he now seeks support from his patrons and other lovers of independent bookstores who he hopes will purchase memberships. (It is called “Armadillo Pillow’s Literary Support Group.”)

Coincidentally, earlier the same day I had read an unusual posting on this website, one from Katy Hogan and Michael James, owners of the Heartland Cafe, advising us that their legendary Rogers Park business, too, is experiencing cash flow problems, and that they are seeking community support (and selling memberships) to help them raise $50,000. In fact, they are hosting “Save the Heartland benefits” on October 11th & 12th, 7pm-11pm.

I’ve never seen businesses seeking this kind of support from its customers, and here, in one day, I learn about two long-standing legendary Rogers Park businesses owned and operated by committed neighborhood residents, asking for a hand.

How do we respond to requests like this? Shouldn’t businesses, as “for profit” enterprises make it on their own? Or, are long standing businesses that many of us know as community institutions different – deserving of special support? Should we consider requests like these differently in today’s economy, when credit is simply harder to obtain? Whether to support these businesses during their time of need is a personal decision for everyone to make; though I assert, that during its nearly 35 years, the Heartland has repeatedly opened its doors for community events and they have done so out of their love for the community and care for others. (The Heartland has long been more than a restaurant – rather it has offered wide array of entertainment, shopping and other activities – fun runs, radio shows, theater, “Heartland by the Lake,” etc.) Though I know less about Armadillo’s Pillow, clearly this establishment, too, has served many residents for many years.

I hope enough of us recognize the value of these two important businesses, and if you aren’t in a position to make a contribution, at least patronize the establishment: grab a meal or a cocktail (at Heartland) or buy a book (Armadillo’s Pillow.)

And visit either of these websites to understand these business’ requests. The neighborhood is more vibrant with them! (Frankly, it is hard to imagine Rogers Park without the Heartland.)

Armadillo’s Pillow
6753 N. Sheridan

Heartland Café
7000 North Glenwood


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Reader Comments

I consider many businesses in the community to be “family”. The Heartland Cafe is a reassuring and comforting corner gathering spot to the locals of Rogers Park. I’d truly miss its appeal and what it stands for should it shut its doors. All independent businesses in this truly unique area have my support. It’s like family…

Posted by sher on October 04, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Maybe I’m just a b!+@h, but I’m not that sympathetic enough bail them out. I don’t know much about the ArmPil’s plight - probably because I don’t know much about them. I’ve lived here 12 years and never seen them advertise/promote themselves. I have a million ideas of ways to grow their business, though. The Heartland could be a gold mine! It has a huge long standing reputation. When you say “Rogers Park” to non-RPs, they reply “Heartland Cafe”.  As I understand it, poor accounting on the part of MJ did them in - BUT he’s too cheap to pay an accountant. Hello! Anyone home??? You want me to bail you out but you refuse to pay for an accountant? What’s going to prohibit this from happening again.  Mike, you and I should buy 51% of the Heartland and turn it around.

Posted by kristi_erickson on October 19, 2010 at 12:10 pm

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About the Author

Mike G's photoMike Glasser

Mike has a long term relationship with Rogers Park, having lived here at various times in his life, most recently returning to the neighborhood in August, 2009. While living here as a third year law student, he remembers drunken nights at Biddy Mulligan’s and hosting a couple of memorable parties that he, hypocritically, now forbids his own tenants from having. Years later, after completing his stint as a lawyer, Mike started investing in apartment buildings in Rogers Park (and elsewhere), and soon after, did what many newly divorced real estate investors do: he moved into one of his buildings. In 1992 Mike was one of the founding members of the Rogers Park Builders Group, an organization that he eventually headed for six years, until yielding those reigns three years ago. Around a decade ago, on a whim, he reserved the web site “,” which he has been developing ever since, and which co-hosts RP BizArts networking events. Mike is the proud father of three wonderful children, Amy, Mitch and Ella.

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