WHEATON – A few years after both Barnes & Noble and Borders closed in the Wheaton area, a new bookseller is establishing itself in a unique setting: a furniture store.
Prairie Path Books, the brainchild of Wheaton residents Sandy Koropp and Heather Janiak, has been hosting events in restaurants and living rooms and recommending books to local readers since October. But, starting in June, the two will open a more permanent location at Toms-Price Home Furnishings of Wheaton.
The partnership offers their budding business a low-cost way to test its concept, Koropp said. The pair searched for an affordable location in downtown Wheaton, she said, but the prices were too high.
“My partners and I have seven kids going to college very soon between us and we’re readers, not business people,” she said. “We’re eager to figure it all out, but in terms of investing an extra nest egg in a businesses? It’s not happening.”
Toms-Price President Scott Price knows Koropp through a longstanding business relationship with one of the Wheaton store’s interior designers. When he heard about her new business, he said he saw an opportunity and gave Prairie Path the chance to host a gathering in a portion of the store that resembles the homes at which the booksellers previously held events.
From there, Price offered them a permanent spot, with furniture included.
“My hope is that a bookstore will really generate more day-to-day foot traffic,” he said. “By having them go through the store, hopefully there will be some synergies there as far as customers go.”
Price said he would like to see the business flourish and to provide an area starved for bookstores with an option.
“The book business has been pretty challenging, and I think it’s very questionable whether or not the traditional bookstore, the Barnes & Noble-esque store, works,” he said. “They have this model for a very hands-on, high-touch local bookstore and I think that makes more sense. You can buy books online easily, so why would you go to a bookstore? The service and recommendations from the people who work there.”
Koropp said experience is key in what she and Janiak want to do. They will continue hosting events ranging from murder mystery nights to cooking classes to local author spotlights while emphasizing connecting readers with books that appeal to them.
She said she now reads three or four books a week – not including audiobooks.
“It’s a very serious commitment on my part that I recommend only what I have read,” she said.
Friend and patron Eleanore Richards said she has been going to Koropp since well before the start of Prairie Path to determine what to read next.
“She’s my go-to person. My book group gets together in January and plans out our books for the year and I always emailed her and asked ‘What have you got for me?’” she said. “Her recommendations are always something that appeals to the entire group.”
Shannon Grigonis of Wheaton said she attended one of the business’s recent events with her two young children. Her kids were read to by Prairie Path’s interns, while the adults got a chance to talk about things other than their children.
“It’s not just a book store,” she said. “She and Heather both have a vision for this place that is about the experience – I just can’t wait to go to it.”
Visit the store
Toms-Price Home Furnishings and Prairie Path Books are located at 303 Front St.
Intern for Prairie Path
Prairie Path Books' internship program helps teens improve their writing and communication skills.
To contact the store to plan an event, provide book recommendations or place an order, visit www.prairiepathbooks.com
• "Tenth of December" by George Saunders
• "Hyperbole and a Half" by Allie Brosch
• "The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook" by Diane St. Claire
• "Keepers" by Kathy Brennan
• "Journey" by Aaron Becker
• "Masterminds & Wingmen" by Rosalind Wiseman