On a trip to Chicago a few years ago, Brick’s designer, Mark Byk, discovered a very cool independent bookstore in Wicker Park. He brought Quimby’s to our attention, and in a short while, Brick found a home on their shelves among a wide array of independently published books, literary magazines, comics, and zines. To find out more about the store and the “bizarre, strange, dope, queer, surreal, weird” stuff they stock, we got in touch with Liz Mason, a zine publisher and the manager of Quimby’s.
Brick: Could you describe Quimby’s for our readers?
Quimby’s: Quimby’s is an independently owned bookstore that sells independently published and small press books, comics, zines, and ephemera. We favour the unusual, the aberrant, the saucy, and the lowbrow.
Brick: How long has the store been around? Could you tell us a bit about its history?
Quimby’s: It all started with Steven Svymbersky. He’d published over fifty zines with his friends since 1985, and he published Quimby Magazine for five years in Boston. On September 15, 1991, he opened Quimby’s in a thousand-square-foot space on 1328 North Damen in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Steven explained the philosophy of the store with these words: “I really want to carry every cool, bizarre, strange, dope, queer, surreal, weird publication ever written and published, and in time Qvimby’s will. Because I know you’re out there and you just want something else, something other, something you never even knew could exist.” (And yes, that was a V.)
In 1997 Steven sold the store to Eric Kirsammer, the owner of Chicago Comics. Steven moved to Amsterdam with his family shortly thereafter. Eric purchased the store in order to take up Steven’s commitment to the First Amendment. After a few years, the rent became too expensive at Quimby’s original spot, and Eric moved the store to a more permanent locale, 1854 W. North Avenue. He still owns Chicago Comics, as well. Now Quimby’s and Chicago Comics have a reciprocal “sister store” relationship, where we transfer materials between each other and often collaborate on ordering, outreach, and off-site events.
Brick: What kind of off-site events do Quimby’s and Chicago Comics do?
Quimby’s: I can’t speak for Chicago Comics but we do pop-up shops and tables at local zine events like Chicago Zine Fest. Sometimes we sell books for Quimby’s-related authors if they do events at places where they need a bookseller, like if they’re reading at a bar.
Brick: What kind of customers frequent Quimby’s?
Quimby’s: People who like weird stuff! The punks! The weirdos! The literary! The artists!
Brick: Are booksellers necessary nowadays?
Quimby’s: Of course! Who would give you time to come in and actually look at zines before buying them?
Brick: What’s the benefit of browsing zines or lollygagging about in your store, or any store? Is it like eating your Wheaties?
Quimby’s: All I’m qualified to speak about is Quimby’s, so I don’t know about other stores. What I do know is that here you kind of need to set aside time to look through stuff because we have a lot of stuff.
Brick: Have you witnessed any customers making great discoveries lately? Or do you have any new favourite zines you’re likely to recommend?
Brick: Why do you think it’s important to support independent publishing?
Quimby’s: Because it rocks. Other voices besides the mainstream deserve to be heard.
Brick: Tell us some more about a few of these independent voices you’ve seen in Quimby’s.
Quimby’s: Sure. There’s John Porcellino, who has been doing the comic King-Cat for a million zillion years. His minimal poetic style has influenced many a young punk rock kid to do comics. Caroline Picard is a local writer/artist/curator/teacher who runs Green Lantern Press. She’s a Chicago gem and pretty much does everything. Carrie McNinch does some great autobiographic comics and zines. Her work is thoughtful, funny, and compulsively readable. She’s been doing zines for years and years. Her most recent zine is You Dont Get There From Here. And a shameless plug for Quimby’s employees: check out Edie Fake, Neil Brideau, and Liz Mason (yes, we sell their work).
Brick: Brick seems a bit different than most of the magazines and books featured on your website—not that we don’t fancy ourselves unusual and saucy on occasion. How does it get along with the other things on your shelves?
Quimby’s: We have all sorts of lit journals. We curate what goes up on the website, and don’t include lit journals. But we actually have at this moment 326 lit journals in stock in addition to all the other stuff. You’re not so alone!
Brick: What do you think of Brick?
Quimby’s: The Believer meets The Baffler. Hip hip hooray!