Bookworm: Sandy Koropp

It feels “almost like a sacred space,” says Sandy Koropp, founder and owner of Prairie Path Books. (Photo by Lloyd Degrane)
Sandy Koropp’s Prairie Path Books provides a gathering place for community and inspiration

It’s true that Prairie Path Books, a Wheaton, Ill., bookstore, was named one of the nation’s top small businesses when it received a Blue Ribbon as part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Dream Big Small Business Awards in 2015.

It all began in 2013 when Sandy Koropp, ’87 LAS, JD ’90, who worked as a lawyer before staying home to raise three kids, filled a rolling suitcase with her favorite books and sold them at friends’ book clubs. A bookworm who belonged to four book clubs, Koropp had always wanted a bookstore. “You feel like there’s a hush around you when you go into a bookstore. It’s almost a sacred space,” she says. With no retail experience, Koropp was hesitant to make a big investment. As she built a following, an opportunity arose to take over an apartment-like space (complete with kitchen) within Toms-Price Home Furnishings in Wheaton, rent-free.

Now, three years later, Koropp hosts cooking demos in the small kitchen, book clubs gather in the cozy living room and kids toddle around the children’s section, while friends and strangers meet to talk about what’s happening in the community and beyond.

While Prairie Path Books doesn’t move many best sellers (there’s Amazon for that), it has become a destination and gathering place “for community and inspiration,” Koropp says.

It’s the sacred space she always dreamed of—that also happens to be the winner of a national award.