The brick and mortar bookstore is not dead, and as long as places like Quimby’s are around, neither will it be dull.
Quimby’s opened in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood in 1991 and is still there, in all its defiant weirdness, today. (It did move within the neighborhood, to a bigger spot.) The store specializes in “the unusual, the aberrant, the saucy and the lowbrow,” and is a hub for zines and other independently published works on music history, the occult, erotica, and much more.
The store is the singular vision of Steven Svymbersky, a veteran zine publisher who said, “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.”
Why the original spelling used a “v” is a mystery, but it’s a good thing the store changed course; otherwise, it wouldn’t be able to use Quimby the Mouse as its beloved mascot. Though Svymbersky’s friend Chris Ware created Quimby the Mouse around the same time that the bookstore opened, the names are coincidental—mutual beneficiaries of a distinctly indie synergy.
Whether it’s a dilution of Quimby’s local aesthetic, or a big step toward spreading the alt-gospel, not everyone has to travel to Wicker Park to experience Quimby’s zinescape. In 2017, Svymbersky opened a second Quimby’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.