“We just decided to unlock the door and see what happens,” Osborne said. “At closing time, we had to ask people to leave. I think they’re glad there’s a bookstore back in town.”
Geneva residents Osborne and his wife, Roxanne, bought the former Designer’s Desk Needlepoint Shop last November and started construction inside in May.
Its grand opening is on Oct. 13 with a formal ribbon cutting scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 16.
“It was named for our Bernese Mountain dog, Harvey. We lost him last year in October. He was 10,” Osborne said. “He was 125 pounds. I have a puppy now, another Bernese named Hazel.”
The building has 2,400 square feet of retail space, with a coffee bar on the first floor along with kids and young adult books, he said .
The second floor is for adults featuring fiction and non-fiction and the basement – which is still being finished – will be available for meeting space for book clubs and organizations such as the Literacy Foundation, Osborne said.
“We’re planning author visits and book signings,” Osborne said. “We’re working with publishers.”
This is a second career for both Osborne and his wife, who are both 56, as he taught middle school science for 30 years and his wife is in the process of leaving a commercial construction company after 24 years, he said.
Even with independent bookstores and bookstore chains struggling – under the gun from online discounter Amazon.com – the Osbornes still put their investment into an independent bookstore.
“We have a voodoo doll of Jeff Bazos, our arch-enemy,” Osborne said of the founder and CEO of Amazon. “We will not even try to compete with him. He loses money on every book he sells, I read someplace. … We did not know anything about owning a bookstore. We got educated. We went to bookseller classes and we went to the American Booksellers Association.”
The Osbornes bought the building for $775,000 Nov. 1, 2017, Geneva Township property records show.
The building was built in 1860, also according to Geneva Township property records.
Known as the Cory House, the building used to be the Kris Kringle Haus, a year-round Christmas store for 25 years.
It had faced Third Street, but when Pat Delp bought it for her needlepoint shop in 2007, she turned it around to face James Street. Delp put the business and building up for sale in 2016 when she retired.
The building was featured in the Geneva History Museum’s Brown Bag program “Moved Houses.”
The building is listed in Donna Latham’s book, “Ghosts of the Fox River Valley,” as the music of Miss Vere Cory, a piano teacher, can still be heard playing despite there being no piano in the house.
The Geneva History Museum also includes the house on its annual Ghost Tours event.
Osborne said he has not encountered Vere Cory's ghost, despite doing “a ton of renovation” in the building.
“I have not seen or heard the ghost,” Osborne said. “I’ve been in the attic and all over. I was here at 1 a.m. getting some things done and I had not heard anything. Maybe she likes books. Maybe she likes the bookstore concept.”
Still, at Halloween, the Osbornes plan to have piano music in the store.
More information is available by calling the store at 630-232-2991.