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Coach Bill Angelo
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Bill Angelo is entering his 27th season as ECC’s baseball head coach. He has had nearly 820 wins since...

Coach Bill Angelo
ECC Baseball Coach Nears 30th Season

Bill Angelo is entering his 27th season as ECC’s baseball head coach. He has had nearly 820 wins since...

Harvey’s Tales: The Hidden Gem of Geneva

Victoria Alongi
Harvey’s Tales store front on Sept. 27, 2023.

Off of a quiet side street in downtown Geneva, Illinois, sits what appears to be a quaint, historical home. There is more than meets the eye, however. Painted a buttercup yellow, two stories tall and filled to the brim with books, journals, games and other diversions, Harvey’s Tales is a recent newcomer in the roster of small-town businesses speckled throughout Geneva.

Opened on Oct. 1, 2018, by Chuck and Roxanne Osborne, Harvey’s Tales was an idea many years in the making.

“The whole journey started a long time ago because every time we’d go on vacation with our family we’d find a local bookstore,” Chuck Osborne said. “I think we were in Seattle one time at Elliot Bay books and we thought it would be kinda cool if we could do something like this in Geneva.”

Done with teaching and ready for something different, the Osbornes took the leap.

“I came home from school one day and I told my wife ‘I’m done,'” said Osborne. “She said, ‘Just quit.’ I told her, ‘I can’t quit, I’m only 54. What am I going to do?’  She said, ‘I don’t know, let’s do that bookstore thing.’ And I told her, ‘Let’s talk about it.'”

 After buying the old home on James Street, demolition and renovations soon followed. While Roxanne was still in New York working, Chuck would visit the store daily, wondering if it would ever come together. 

“There were times when Rox was in New York and I’d come every day and walk through with the contractors and hyperventilate,” said Osborne. “I thought there was no way in heck this was going to get finished in time.”

Despite the time and effort, the name of their new shop came easily, by way of their furry friend Harvey. 

“Harvey was our first dog,” Osborne said. “…I don’t know we were out for dinner, drinking and thinking of puns and tales and tails. [We thought] ‘Let’s name the store after Harvey ’cause he was like the best dog ever.'”

Eighteen months into their shop being open, COVID-19 struck, forcing Harvey’s to completely change operations overnight. 

“That was pretty crazy,” Osborne said. “We knew it was all kinda coming, then one day businesses had to close. We thought ‘Well shoot what are we gonna do?’ We came every day, we kept some of our employees that we could, we took orders over the phone, we shipped a ton of stuff; upstairs turned into a shipping warehouse.”

Eventually, they were able to transition to pickup, even trying their hand in delivery. Harvey’s Tales managed to make it out the other side. 

“At some point, we were allowed to do curbside pickup, we expanded to doing home deliveries and taking orders over the phone,” said Osborne. “It was interesting; we did okay.”

Harvey’s Tales being in a historical home, circa 1863, makes for a unique layout that most other shops lack. Hazel’s House (named for one of the Osborne’s current Bernese Mountain dogs) is a children’s book nook. If you head upstairs, you’ll find a True Crime closet, a Sci-fi and Horror wall, and a sun-filled Non-fiction room equipped with a table and chairs for book clubs.

The banned and challenge book room is the standout edition; only lit by a lone window, shelves are lined with titles that have been challenged in some way or another. Each book faces outward, with a plaque underneath it describing the reasons they were questioned. The idea first came to be when the Osbornes were finalizing the planogram. 

“We had the big room upstairs and we were like ‘What the heck are we gonna do with this,'” Osborne said. “And we talked about a bunch of different things. I said ‘Why don’t we take all the banned books- the banned and challenged stuff- and stick ’em in here and write how ridiculous the bans and challenges all were.'”

This year, Banned Books Week falls on the first week of October. It’s meant to educate people on the importance of freedom in reading and writing. The banned book room at Harvey’s has added to the conversation.

“It’s been pretty well received; it’s created a lot of conversation about the silliness of it, [especially some of the older stuff],” said Osborne. “Charlotte’s Web is in there because animals can’t talk.’”

Harvey’s Tales is much more than a book lover’s haven. It’s become a safe space for the community to come together and enjoy themselves.

“We tried to create a place that people would feel comfortable coming to,” said Osborne. “We have a big table upstairs where two or three days a week there are people just talking, groups that just started coming in and now they meet every week up there. It’s just a good community space I think; a safe space for people.”

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    LeoOct 5, 2023 at 5:09 pm

    Wow!!! Love reading about new places to visit. Definitely adding this to the list.