In the news: Downtown Aurora’s Culture Stock Book Store Opens for Volunteers

Reprinted from The Beacon-News — The sun’s rays filled the interior of the Vargas Building, but it wasn’t the pleasant autumn day giving people a skip in their walk as they whisked in boxes of donated books from the rows of cars.

Aurora’s cultural arts movement is on the verge of turning another chapter, as a few dozen people sorted books for Culture Stock, a nonprofit social enterprise to give people of all walks of life a place to engage, learn and explore their creativity, as well as buy books.

“It’s like we are next to a park, but we are in the heart of the downtown,” said Jeannie Norris, referring to the brick-lined walkway of the Water Street Mall.

Although modeled after Open Books in Chicago, which promotes literacy programs, Culture Stock is a storefront tailored fit for Aurora’s growing cultural arts movement — from the business plan to the stocking of shelves in preparation for next month’s opening.

Norris said the details in planning the project involved a network of enthusiastic and devoted supporters of the cultural arts — artists, musicians, poets and writers alike.

“This seemed like a natural outlet for their talent and devotion,” she said.

Norris said an estimated 5,000 books covering every genre imaginable were donated, including two books signed by their authors, Joyce Carol Oates and Helen Thomas.

Norris said Culture Stock is Aurora’s first bookstore in some time, but the tomes are more a “tool for underwriting collaborative culture” in Aurora.

The 2,100-square-foot building, leased by the city of Aurora, is at 43 E. Galena Blvd., immediately east of the historical Paramount Arts Theatre.

The interior is freshly painted in warm tones, while the south wall was painted in brick red to accent the architectural details of the art deco theater building. And it has picturesque views of the Fox River from its pine-trimmed bay windows.

She said the types of programming will be the inspiration of the public. “If someone wants to start a photography club, they can post it on the bulletin board,” she said. “Or if someone is an expert in a language and is interested in teaching, we can offer a foreign language class.”

“It is going to be a cultural clearinghouse,” Norris added.

Norris is grateful to Beth Standish, owner of River’s Edge in downtown Aurora, for introducing her to Nicole Mullins, founder and executive director of LIFT (Live, Improve, Flourish and Thrive), which began a year ago.

LIFT is the nonprofit charitable cultural organization backing Culture Stock. “We were introduced to one another, and our ideas blend together,” Norris said.

“We are looking to (operate) as a social enterprise to foster progress in the community,” she said.

Adam Bracero, a Fermilab engineer by profession, sings in his spare time in bands and was involved in the Aurora Puerto Rican Cultural Council when he stepped up to serve when LIFT was looking for direction and leadership.

“I see this as a central hub for cultural activity down the road,” said Bracero, who is LIFT’s president.

Carmen Rodriguez stepped into the building when she realized the bookstore wasn’t ready for its first customer, but the avid reader and English Language Learner teacher at Gates Elementary plans to return.

“I love used books, more so than new books because they acquire the character and personality of the former owner,” Rodriguez said. “They make me feel as though I am part of a web of life.”

Along with the donation of books for sale, buyers will find vinyl records, CDs, furniture, artwork and collectibles. Culture Stock will officially open Oct. 15.