Five Questions With Lauren Vega, Bookseller

By Stephanie Sack | Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lauren Vega outside one of her favorite places, The Book Cellar. Credit: Stephanie Sack

Luckily for Chicago, Lauren Vega left Indiana and settled in Lincoln Square as an enthusiastic and happy resident. Her experience at both big-name bookstores and independent booksellers over the past decade reflects her passion for literature in all forms. Today you can find her behind the counter at The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. Myopic in Wicker Park.

A fan of handmade goods, Lauren recently learned to crochet, and, as a committed knitter, she can often be found around town with her custom-made Bears knitting bag. On March 16, she will have her head shaved to raise money for cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s foundation. For more information about the fundraiser, and a picture of Lauren’s signature “Bunny Knuckle” tattoos, check out her participant’s page.

1. As a native of Hammond, Ind., what confluence of events brought you to Chicago, and more specifically, Lincoln Square?

I’ve lived in Chicago for more than 15 years. I’ve talked about moving out of the city many times (most specifically to Minneapolis or Portland, Ore.), but have always stayed because this is home to me. My parents are just a short train ride away, and it’s ridiculously easy to navigate the city on bike or public transportation. I’ve lived all over the North Side, and Lincoln Square is by far the best place I’ve lived.

2. You work in a bookstore. In a world with so many electronic options to obtain literature, what keeps you so close to actual books?

I’ve been a bookworm since I was a little kid and I’ve worked in bookstores for almost 10 years now. My “to read” shelf has more than 40 books on it, and I own a Kindle. I don’t feel like books and e-books are necessarily opposed, they serve different purposes. I’m looking forward to taking the Kindle and a bunch of books on vacation, which will cut down on weight. But you can’t really browse books on Amazon, and Amazon won’t be able to suggest new titles for you the way a librarian or bookseller can.

I hope that, in the future, publishers will do what a lot of independent record companies do now, and include a code for an e-book with the purchase of a hardcover book. Though, if they started doing that, I’d need even more bookshelves.

3. Crafting is a passion of yours, especially knitting. What are your favorite items to create and why?

I started knitting 10 years ago, and always made small things – hats, gloves, some scarves. For Christmas, my boyfriend got me crochet lessons at Sifu Design Studio in Andersonville, and I have become obsessed. I’ve already made three shawls, and I don’t think I’ll be slowing down. I also just got a serger, but won’t be learning to use it until I have a bit more space to spread it and my sewing machine out.

4. With such an eclectic palette for art, literature and culture, what are your favorite places in the Lincoln Square area to shop and dine?

What a fun question! In the summer, Gene’s rooftop is one of the nicest places in the area. Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe is our weekly pizza haunt. We are really looking forward to the opening of Yogurt Square. [Ed. note: Yogurt Square opened Feb. 25.]

For shopping, the Book Cellar, which almost goes without saying. I love Sacred Art. It’s wonderful to have a boutique in the neighborhood that is all handmade and local. I did a lot of holiday gift buying (and okay, for us, too) at Merz Apothecary.

5. What advice would you give artsy types thinking about moving to Lincoln Square?

I love it here. There are so many great resources. Art in the Square for painters, the Old Town School of Folk Music, Lillstreet is nearby…. There are three great yarn shops within a couple of miles (Sifu Design Studio, Knit 1 Chicago and Windy Knitty). After living in Wicker Park on a main avenue for five years, this neighborhood is a dream. It’s quiet and there are trees! It’s easy to get around. Woo public transit! And it’s a great walking neighborhood. We’re about to move – we need more space for our growing yarn stash – and we’re staying in the area.

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