Downtown independent bookstore A Room of One’s Own is changing ownership later this week. The store, which has long been a staple of State Street–area retail, is buzzing with energy as new owners Gretchen Treu and Jes Lukes prepare for the turnover.
For the past two years, co-owners Sandi Torkildson and Nancy Geary have been working to sell A Room of One’s Own, an independent bookstore on West Gorham near State Street that is known for its expansive women’s studies and LGBT collections. Torkildson was one of the five original founders of the bookstore in 1975, and Geary has been with the store for over 26 years.
Recently, they announced that the new owner-managers will be two long-time employees, Gretchen Treu and Jes Lukes, with help from silent partner Patrick Rothfuss, an award-winning fantasy novelist who hails from Madison. “He’s not going to be sitting around selling books—he has books to write,” says Sandi Torkildson, one of the outgoing owners.
She is optimistic about the future of independent bookstores. “Contrary to popular belief, independent bookstores now are doing quite well—in fact, better than the chain bookstores. I think it’s because they are able to adapt to changes a lot quicker because they are smaller.”
Research from the Harvard Business School confirms that independent bookstores are thriving even in the face of online retailers like Amazon. The American Booksellers Association reported a 35 percent growth in the number of independent booksellers in the U.S. between 2009 and 2015, with more than 570 new bookstores opening during that time. In this time of growth in the industry, Torkildson is confident that new owners Treu and Lukes will carry forth the legacy and success of A Room of One’s Own, with the help of the Madison community.
She says, “The other thing is, State Street is always a challenge, it’s a changing landscape. Right now, our support comes from our community and our community continues to support us, and I assume they will continue to support us.”
As Torkildson reflects on her years with the bookstore, she says that her favorite thing has been sharing recommendations with friends, family, and customers.
For any readers looking for a new book this summer, Torkildson has two personal recommendations, both recent releases from women authors. The first is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. The second recommendation she makes is Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Canadian-Asian author Madeleine Thien.
Torkildson wants the community to know that A Room of One’s Own is here to stay as “Madison’s favorite bookstore.” The change in ownership takes place on July 1.
This story was reported by Richelle Wilson for WORT News.