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City Newsstand: Read (and see) All About It!
The warmth of the printed word still burns at the City Newsstand, 4018 N. Cicero, the largest magazine stand in the midwest.
Associate manager Mike Oelrich estimates there are 3,500 magazines in the store along with a couple hundred books. This link ain’t flimsy either.
One of my earliest journalism imprints were shaped as a teenager in suburban Chicago. I would take the Burlington-Northern train into the city to visit my father in his Swift & Company office, 115 W. Jackson. I would then jump on an El to head to Wrigley Field to watch Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins.
I passed several corner newsstands on my journey. I loved everything about them. They were my storefront windows into a magical world.
I loved the newshawks with cigars the size of naval submarines. I loved newspapers from far away places. Like St. Louis. I liked the soft porn. I loved the Chicago Daily News and the writing style of M.W. Newman.
Almost all of the Chicago corner newsstands went away, like doves in a deep blue sky. (There is still a modest newsstand at Division and Ashland).
But City Newsstand remained.
I thought it would be fun to do one of our weekly video-docs on the City Newsstand. The incongruity of digital and the printed word seemed interesting to me.
I hope you like the enjoy the work of award-winning Sun-Times videographer Jon Sall, who has a keen ability to absorb his subject while maintaining the patience to tell a story— just like his print predecessors at the Daily News.
I learned that business is up at City News, especially after a 10-month expansion included a full espresso bar, cookies and chocolate truffles made by employee Donna Kosiba for the new City News Cafe. The cafe opened in August. The City Newsstand is owned by Joe Angelastri, who also owns the Chicago-Main Newsstand in Evanston……
……..City Newsstand opened in 1988.
“My boss had a newsstand on the corner starting in 1978,” says Oelrich, a native of Portgage Park. “There was a bookstore here. When the bookstore decided it didn’t want to be in business anymore they offered it to him.”
There was a steady growth at the newsstand until 2001, according to Oelrich. Business slowed down. “Now it is starting to come back,” he says. “The economy is starting to improve. The changes we have made have helped. We’ve made it a more attractive venue.” The newsstand’s new shelves were rescued from three or four dead Borders bookstores.
“The digital world is effecting us in ways you don’t expect,” Oelrich says “It’s not that the people are reading the same magazine online and therefore not buying it at the newsstand. It’s that they are doing other things online, so they are not reading magazines period.”
Oelrich, celebrates his 20th anniversary at the newsstand in April. He began working the 11 p.m.-7 a.m. nightshift at the outside corner newsstand.
And City Newsstand is still a destination.
“We did a zip code city that showed 20 per cent of our customers come from 35 miles,” he says. “And they’re coming to our cafe as well. Our customers used to be 80-20 men, but since we opened the cafe it has gotten closer to 60-40 men.”"
I find myself heading to the newsstand on holidays and Sunday evenings when the city slows down. You can better hear the heartbeats. Maybe I’ll pull over for dinner with my new words at the Golden Nugget Pancake House, 3234 W. Irving Park. (It’s too dark to read at Sabatino’s Restaurant and piano bar, 4441 W. Irving Park).
City Newsstand is open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week. I have never been there at 7 a.m.
I buy the Baseball America newspaper at City Newsstand as well as offbeat publications like Route 66 magazine and “Galore” (check out the latest Pulp issue). I have never been inside the X-rated section at the rear of the store.
“Niche publications is our niche,” Oelrich quips. ” A supermarket might sell 200 copies of ‘O,’ the Oprah magazine, we might only sell three or four. But we’ll sell 20 copies of ‘Shotgun News’.”
Jon and I are also gathering titles for our weekly presentation:
Rough Cut, Unique Visits , On the Fly, Famous Behavior (sounds like a Rod Stewart song but once you get past that…) Off the Cuff.
We aren’t considering “Shotgun News.”
Let us know what you think.