Bookstore judged by its cover

Photo by James Mitchell

Owner Steve Magina took over the family business in 1986 from his father, George, who opened the Fort Street bookstore in 1948.

Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — Contained within the 1,500-square-feet of Magina Books, 2111 Fort St., are, of course, lots of books, with an estimated 50,000 titles for sale.

Shoppers find the inventory impressive as well as the care given to the business, which was recently awarded the city’s Pride in Property award as recognized by the Community Improvement Commission.

Owner Steve Magina, who in 1986 took over the business started by his father, George, in 1948, said the honor was simply a matter of “keeping up appearances,” with a clean store and parking area free of trash and weeds.

Of equal note is the sustained existence and success of the business itself: An independent, family owned retailer holding their own against competitors both real and electronic. Considered a specialty retailer, the shop survives through in-store customers, Internet sales and maintaining a presence at book fairs.

“I need all three of those to make a go of it,” Magina said.

No matter the ups and downs of Lincoln Park’s economy, Magina said he’s never given a thought to leaving the city. For one thing he owns the building — and there is an inherent sense of mutual loyalty with his customers.

Most of the in-store traffic comes from local shoppers, he said, although used and rare book dealers are by definition a “destination” store capable of attracting shoppers more than willing to travel to feed their book habit.

That habit, Magina said, is not likely to go away in spite of electronic book readers or other alternate formats.

“There’s more warmth when you’re actually holding a real book,” Magina said. “There’s something to be said for old books.” Magina said it’s hard to imagine a den or family room absent of real books, and displaying downloaded titles isn’t quite the same thing on display.

Magina Books is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Contact the store at 313-928-7177.

(James Mitchell can be reached at