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In Memoriam: Co-founder of Sandmeyer's Bookstore of Printers Row, by Alicia Dale

28 Nov 2018 7:37 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

Ulrich Sandmeyer 1948 - 2018

My heart is heavy. Ulrich Sandmeyer, who co-founded Sandmeyer's Bookstore with his wife Ellen in the 1980s, has passed away. The young, idealistic couple created an independent book store that is cherished by local residents and worldwide visitors who stumble upon it as they stay in nearby hotels. In this authentic independent book store, you'll find local authors and not readily-found children's books. A cork board showcases the accomplishments of writers and events of interest to them. Artful greeting cards and grandly designed notebooks are available to inspire readers and writers. It's easy to spend an afternoon in the cozy former printing warehouse with the original restored wood floors that creak as the reader walks through to explore the lovingly displayed books. The young visionary couple was instrumental in establishing the Printers Row community. 

Printers Row has been an unlikely neighborhood in the center of a commercial environment since the 1980s. Sandmeyer's Bookstore is a structural component of the transformation from a defunct block of printing warehouses into a neighborhood of residential loft living. In the 1980’s and early 90’s an eclectic group of people willing to live without access to a grocery store and endure the risk of petty crime in this unnoticed neighborhood occupied the lofts Printers Row and housing of Dearborn Park. We were all frequent visitors of Sandmeyer's knowing that the Sandmeyers saw the jewel inside the urban grime, the potential the neighborhood held and  it's emerging promise. 

The vision of this idealistic pioneering couple  transformed the neighborhood into a haven for independent writers. Sandmeyer's was an early supporter of the Printers Row Book Fair that at one time drew a handful of visitors and has now evolved into Printers Row Lit Fest that draws tens of thousands of visitors, artists and authors from around the world to celebrate the influence of the written word and those that are brave enough to invest in sharing it.  The Independent Writers of Chicago, also formed in the early 1980’s, has been a participant in the revolution with an annual booth just steps outside of Sandmeyer's.

Mr. Ulrich will be appropriately memorialized at Grace Place Community Center in the heart of the Printers Row community he helped to build. Grace Place is an interfaith organization known as a Community Center because there's an old Chicago law on the books that won't allow a bar next to a faith organization. 

In lieu of flowers, the Sandmeyers suggest donations to the Chicago Public Library Foundation Services will be held Saturday, December 1 at 11:00 AM at Grace Place (637 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL).

As the South Loop Neighborhood continues to transform and grow with expanding universities, businesses and upscale rental living, it will serve us well to remember our roots and the contribution of Ulrich and Ellen Sandmeyer, who with youthful optimism  were willing to risk and invest to create so much. 

Ulrich Sandmeyer, you will be dearly missed.

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