Louvel Delon: Chicago’s Friend on the Other Side
It’s a well-known fact that most small businesses fail within their first four months. These days, most bookstores fail even faster than that.
But somehow, Louvel Delon’s little bookstore on Milwaukee Ave. has been open for almost a century.
The front of the store is fairly remarkable in itself – altars sit on display with candles and various artifacts, and “Occult Books” is written on the windows in big gothic script. Inside, everything is organized according to Feng-shui, and the brick walls are hidden by shelves of books and alchemical ingredients, along with altars and totems to several different spirits. There are displays marked with signs like “bezoar stones” and “jack-balls”, and the place is filled by the smell of incense.
Both of the times I visited, there was a bespectacled man behind the counter wearing a black cloak and a fanny pack mixing something in a mortar and pestle.
The Occult Bookstore, as it’s now known, has been open in Chicago since 1916. Originally, it was called D.G. Nelson’s Astrological Research Society and Occult Books, and was located on State St. The store has managed to stay open through several changes of location and ownership, mainly because of the loyalty of the Occultist community in Chicago.
“We’re one of the last stores to stay in that niche,” says Louvel Delon, the store’s current owner. “Places like this are dying left and right.”
Louvel, a Chicago native in his late-30s, isn’t the person you would expect to be running the oldest occult bookstore in America. He’s quick-witted, professional, and surprisingly charming for someone who lists his occupation as “Occultist” on his MySpace page. In fact, if it weren’t for the faded tattoos, ear-piercings, and mutton chops, Louvel would be just like any other modern CEO.
While studying computer programming at Columbia College in Chicago, Louvel spent his free time pursuing his interest in the spiritual and metaphysical world. Most of that pursuit took place at the store he now owns, which was located in the Flat Iron Arts Building while Louvel was in college.
“I would camp out on the floor of the store with a pile of books and just read,” Louvel told me. “Eventually, I was hanging out there so much that the owner just offered me a job and I accepted.”
The store does much more than just sell books, however. It also serves as a common space for Chicago’s Occultist community – which means that Louvel has a few unique obligations as store manager.
“Just like you wouldn’t go into a doctor’s office if it looked unclean, people don’t like to come into stores like this if they feel a bad vibe,” Louvel explains. Basically, the store needs to be spiritually spotless. “So, as a good business practice, we do regular cleansing rituals and keep several different altars in the store.”
To most people that might seem crazy, but it comes from a deep sense of compassion that Louvel and the others working at his store have for people of different faiths and spiritual traditions.
Louvel explains it a little better: “As a neutral area for all these different belief systems to come through, we have to recognize that all those paths are equal.”
- written by zjones1 on February 23rd, 2012
- posted in Featured