“My parents emigrated to Chicago from Guatemala. My father was a television repairman, and my mother was a teacher.”

“One day, she put some of her old books in the repair shop window. To my mother’s surprise, they all sold. She started putting more books in the window, and they kept selling. That became the genesis for Giron Books.”

“[A]n entrepreneurial spark drove my mother to become a very successful business owner selling Spanish language books. We were the only Spanish-language bookstore in the city, importing books from Spain, Mexico and Guatemala. We found our niche, stuck with it and have performed well for decades since then.”

“In 1985, I took over the business from my parents and opened our 18th Street location in Pilsen. For decades, Pilsen has been a bright, vibrant community. Pilsen has been a bedrock and channel for Latinos and people from everywhere to get a fresh start: a place where people will lend a hand for others to find jobs, housing and build a life in Chicago.”

“But, over time, the neighborhood changed and taxes kept rising. We were able to bring in more money renting the building than running our bookstore on 18th Street.”

“At the time, I thought, ‘OK. We can’t quell the change, so we will go along with it.’ And so, we closed the store and moved to our current 21st Street location in 2017.”

“When we moved here, the taxes were high, around $20,000, but we could make it work. They increased year by year, but they were always gradual. They allowed us to breathe, adjust prices to make up the difference. Last year, our property taxes on this building were roughly $25,000.”

“Imagine my shock when I opened my tax bill this year and they are $85,000 – a 350% increase.”

“A $60,000 increase isn’t gradual. I thought, ‘This has to be a mistake. Someone must have spilled their coffee, added a zero, or something.’”

“I’ve talked with other community members who told me their taxes increased, but not by this much.

“I went to the tax appeal workshop and waited for hours to get a chance to ask about my bill. I was told I’m likely being assessed similarly to a new Amazon distribution center which went up near my bookstore.”

“But, I’m not a new Amazon distribution center. My building is decades old. I can’t afford the taxes a large company such as Amazon can. I was directed to file an appeal within four days, before the appeal deadline so that a team of inspectors can come and reassess my property.”

“But, what about everyone else? There are 1,800 people in this zone, and over 100 people attended the workshop to be informed we only had four days to figure this out.”

“I filled out and submitted my application, but I still don’t know the status of my case.”

“I feel the system unfairly leaves behind many people that don’t know about their options. At the very least, the appeal deadline could be extended past 30 days to give people more time to correct mistakes in their bills.”

“Increasing taxes have already forced us out once. We don’t want to move again.’”

“We aren’t going to close. We will do everything we can to correct this bill so we can stay, or we will have to move someplace else.”

“Stories such as mine are what contribute to what I call the ‘greying of Pilsen.’”

“Slowly, as families and businesses that have been here for generations are pushed out by rising taxes and leave, the vibrancy, color and energy the neighborhood is famous for dwindle in their exit and absence.”

“I’ve always loved books, and I think there is something so precious and noble to be able to provide resources and knowledge for the community. Something as simple as Spanish books become powerful tools for our language to live on.”

“People can come into our bookstores and learn about their heritage, the countries their parents are from and their culture. Yet, we may have to leave the very communities which we exist to serve because we’re being driven out.”

“Our unfair property tax system plays a major role in contributing to that erosion. Why should we be penalized through proportionally higher taxes because we live in an up-and-coming community?”

Juan Giron,
Owner, Giron Books
Chicago, Illinois