An Interview with Member Bob Katzman of OldZines.com
Where did you get the inspiration to open your business?
I was 14 and left home in the middle of the night and needed to find a way to support myself. I opened one business after another and all the while was collecting paper, periodicals and posters that dated back to 1576.
Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
Beginning at 5, I collected empty Coke bottles from prairies near high schools where the kids would throw them. I’d put them in a little red wagon and then turn them in for 2-3cents each and buy candy and water balloons.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a business owner?
A good relationship is more important than any single sale.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a business in Chicago?
Have a year’s worth of money saved to pay your basic cost of living. Don’t hire anyone until you’re overwhelmed with business. Make sure you’re filling a need. When you’re successful don’t change your old clothes; don’t advertise your success! And last, find a way to give yourself time off.
What product or service of yours are you the most excited about offering?
I sell magazines for birthdays and anniversaries, but really I sell emotion. I sell the way a person will feel when they open up whatever gift it is a person has selected for them. There are only four places like mine left in America. That means a person who buys a gift from me has to go out of their way to find me in Skokie – and that’s the gift, that they’re bothering at all.
I also sell books here that I wrote myself – non-fiction about Chicago.
And I currently have 50,000 posters from all over the world being liquidated for $10 each.
What do you like the most about being located in Wicker Park Bucktown?
I may not be in Wicker Park or Bucktown but I joined the Chamber because I love the people in the neighborhood and they are the right demographic for what I do – smart, curious and artistic. Now if only I could teach them how to use the train to get here!
What are the places in Wicker Park Bucktown that you cannot live without?
Where my daughter Rachel lives and I won’t tell you where that is, but it’s with my grandson Jericho and her husband Jerry. She is an artist, singer/songwriter, and makes jewelry. Is she not the perfect Wicker Park person?
What kind of people are your customers?
Worldly - they appreciate history. They understand the value and fragility of what I sell. They’re also imaginative because they could just go to Target to buy the latest CD.
What can people expect when they walk in your front door?
A genuine eccentric.
Do you have a great story about your business that you’d like to share?
Last week a woman came here to sell me a box of sports magazines. We had never met before. I couldn’t use them and she was disappointed but then she noticed a 1931 Geographic on “Modern Ethiopia,” and explained to me “I just came back from Ethiopia.” We started talking. I know all about Ethiopia – used to have a foreign language bookstore in Lakeview where I sold Amharic language tapes. (That is a Semitic language by the way.) We got to talking and she was interested in Coptic art which is early Christian Art in Ethiopia. I found an example of it in a 1920 Geographic about Abyssinia (the old name for Ethiopia). She bought that and an Ethiopian flag too. She was thrilled! She never expected to come in here, try to sell me sports magazines, and instead, leave with a magazine about Coptic art in Abyssinia! That’s a good story, isn’t it?
For directions to Bob’s store in Skokie from the Damen Blue Line el stop, please click here.
4906 W. Oakton, Skokie, Ill 60077
(847) 677-9444 M-F: 10-5/weekends: 10-2