At The Understudy, it’s all in the details. Half bookstore, half coffee shop, The Understudy sits quietly on Andersonville street, but head inside and you’ll find an airy split space filled to the brim with books, plays, and yes a bustling coffee shop.
Danny Fender and Adam Crawford, a married duo and graduates of DePaul University’s theater school, opened the shop at the end of March, filling a niche, and providing strong caffeine and imaginative plays to theater kids, Andersonville locals, and Chicagoans as a whole.
The bookstore side of the space focuses on texts related to theater. Here you’ll find scripts, biographies, theatrical-themed novels, art books, and young adult books displayed proudly on shelves. With an estimated 2,500-3,000 titles in stock, there’s something for everyone to enjoy whether you’re a theater connoisseur or a novice.
As for the cafe side, the airy open space is filled with stunning wallpaper and wooden floors, creating a cozy chic experience. Serving up all local food and beverages, the Understudy sources its coffee from Metric, tea from Coffee & Tea Exchange, and brings in pastries from pHlour, along with gluten-free pastries from Andersonville stationed DeFloured!
Even the glassware is local, made by Manual, and the plants that fill the dreamy space are all spruced from Gethsemane Garden Center.
The space was designed by local woman-owned interior firm Siren Betty Design, which also designed other fabulous spots like Nine Bar, The Hi-Lo, Tortello, Hide + Seek, and Untitled Supper Club.
The archway between the bookstore and cafe is lined with custom-made wallpaper designed by local artist Susan Williams who pasted thousands of script pages onto the walls lining the back hallway.
On the bookstore side, you’ll find a glorious refurbished antique piano that was originally made in Chicago. Adam’s mom sourced it on Facebook Marketplace in Ohio and it has since become a centerpiece to The Understudy, bookmarking a cozy lounge area filled with couches and eclectic art pieces.
The Understudy also plans to host theater-related programming which will start up soon. This will include play readings, panel discussions, cabaret nights, workshops, and kids’ storytelling hours
The store is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.