A slice of local flavor in Libertyville is closing this month.
Bagels by the Book, named after the original owner Mike Book, opened in a strip mall off Milwaukee Avenue on the south side of town in 1994.
For 18 years, Gurnee resident Danielle Little has been at the helm of the unobtrusive shop known for its made-to-order breakfast sandwiches. Bagels and sides, such as cream cheese, are made in-house and if you are looking for gluten-free anything, this isn't the place.
"Personally, I think it's the best bacon, egg and cheese you can get anywhere," Jackson Peterson, 19, said Tuesday morning. He's going on vacation and stopped with a few pals for a final visit.
Many others agree. In May, 6,869 breakfast sandwiches were sold and 9,374 bagels went out the door as half dozens or dozens.
"That's on the high end (but) still," Little said, acknowledging a going-out-of-business bump.
She wasn't planning to close but her lease won't be renewed after a disagreement with the landlord, she said. She's liquidating the furnishings and equipment and will sell the business and recipes if anyone is interested but there's no immediate plan to reopen elsewhere.
Little was working here part-time in 2000 when uncertainty about her full-time job prompted her to explore other possibilities. So she bought the place, changed the atmosphere and crafted it into a haven for high-schoolers and a collection of area residents.
"Just being nice to the customers was what they always wanted," she said. "It was a struggle at first. There was a reputation we had to overcome but we persevered."
Her tenure began just after Panera opened a few doors away. But the modest, 14-table eatery has successfully coexisted with the national bakery/cafe chain.
"We haven't really changed all that much," Little said recently. "On the weekends, there's standing room only. There's no place to sit."
The transformation began before social media became omnipresent, Little said.
"I hired high school students," she said. "It was the best form of advertising I've ever done."
The modest shop became a go-to place for Libertyville High School students and sports teams. Little said she preferred the students be here and loud rather than somewhere else stirring up trouble.
"All the young people like it," said Sofia Loffredo, who has worked at Bagels by the Book for three years and just graduated from LHS. "They get really good food and we're really laid back."
Many students got their first jobs here, and though they moved on after graduation, kept in touch.
"We stayed very close friends," said Brandon Rhoades, who lived a block away as a kid and rode his bike to the bagel shop around the corner. He and his brother each worked there through high school.
"We have our own families now. She's (Little) been in the loop with our weddings and babies," he said.
The announced closing drew a quick response. The last day is June 24.
"So many people have texted me and asked about it. They're sad," Loffredo said.
Staff writer Gilbert R. Boucher II contributed