Court Street in downtown Kankakee has a new retail resident that is pairing with a longtime staple. Owned by Melissa Zigrossi, Rubber Rose Books & Print is located at 111 E. Court St. and has thousands of used books for sale.
The print aspect of the business comes from Key Printing, currently run by Norm Strasma and Virginia Pitts. Zigrossi will be purchasing the business from Strasma and Pitts and will place Key under the umbrella of Rubber Rose.
The services — including the printing of the public record bulletin — will be kept in tact. Zigrossi is still in the transition phase and continues to work closely with Strasma and Pitts to learn all elements of Key before the pair retires at the end of June.
“I’ve had quite a few people, mostly book lovers come in, to see how it’s going,” Zigrossi said of the business which opened its doors earlier this month.
She has been selling used books online since 2019 under the same name of Rubber Rose, which is a literary reference to the book “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” by Tom Robbins. It was her oldest daughter who encouraged her to sell online.
Zigrossi envisioned one day having a brick-and-mortar store to sell the 3,000 to 4,000 books she had in her home at any given time. When she decided to buy Key Printing, that plan fell into place and provided extra security for the book sale aspect.
“It just worked out perfectly — the timing and the opportunity,” she said.
The Kankakee native — who attended BBCHS, Kankakee Community College, Governors State University and Notre Dame University and also works remotely in an engineering role — said that the store is still in the building phase as more shelves are currently being added. However, it is open to the public and accepts donations of used books.
Zigrossi hopes to have a consignment system in place in the future for used books. If a customer is looking for a book that is not in stock, she keeps the title on a list and keeps her eye out to get a copy from one of her online used-books contacts. When it comes to buying books, she reminds that “there are many other ways besides Amazon.”
Reflecting on when her love of books began as a young girl, Zigrossi shared that it was her dream to be a librarian. Rubber Rose brought that dream to life in its own way.
Zigrossi’s daughters have been helping with the store when they can. Her oldest lives in Chicago and, whenever she visits, they take trips to the indie bookstores around the city.
“I always thought how cool it would be to bring something like that down here,” she said.
“I got so much help from my friends and family,” she added. “They’re helping me paint and organize books. I couldn’t have done it without everybody’s support.”
For more information on Rubber Rose Books & Print, visit rubberrosebooks.com.