It’s Abby here, wishing you all a very happy Independent Bookstore Day! In 1965, my Grammie, Connie Nies, and Great Aunt, Lucille Shand, opened a bookstore in Crystal Lake, IL. Brainard’s Bookstore thrived for over a decade, and even opened a second location in Elgin, IL in 1974. It was in this Elgin store that my parents, Jim and Sue Nies, met, when, as the story goes, my Dad swiped my Mom’s phone number off a check.
Even for generations born after the bookstore closed, its presence has always been felt in our family. We are united in shared stories, a love of books, and a deep pride: our family owned a bookstore.
The bookstore was named after my Grandpa, Brainard Wheeler Nies, and although I never got to meet him, his name has had an ongoing and serendipitous role in my life. My brother is Brainard Brian, my in-laws live in Brainerd, MN, the book sales rep company that KWiL will be working with soon called on Brainard’s Bookstore back in the day, and, just last December, my twin nephews were born, securing this generation’s continuation of not only the surname Nies, but also Brainard, a middle name both boys now share.
Each in our way, everyone in my extended Nies-side family is carrying forward the legacy of Brainard’s Bookstore. I am excited to be doing so through KWiL.
Below are newspaper clippings from the Crystal Lake Herald from the 1960s and 1970s as well as a recent photo of the newest Brainards.
If you’re looking for an independent to support today, keep these three Milwaukee area stores in mind:
Rainbow Booksellers (Milwaukee)
Books and Company (Oconomowoc)
Happy book shopping!