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Ownership Changes at Frugal Muse, Women & Children First

Employees of two local independent bookstores – Frugal Muse in west suburban Darien and Women & Children First Bookstore in Andersonville on the North Side of Chicago – have purchased those stores. Paul Garrison, the manager of Frugal Muse Books, Music & Video in Darien, Illinois has purchased the store from its owners in Wisconsin.

He told me it would remain affiliated with the two stores in Madison and they would continue to honor each other’s gift certificates and coupons. Mr. Garrison had worked at Frugal Muse for twelve years, for eleven of which he had been general manager.
Frugal Muse is located in a storefront with nearly 7,000-square-feet of retail space in Chestnut Court at the southeast corner of 75th Street and Lemont Road. It opened on October 15, 2000.

Frugal Muse sells (and buys) a mixture of new and used books, graphic novels, audio-books, CDs, movies, and videogames, as well as cards and bookmarks. They can special order books and audio-books generally for 20% off the list price and offer a discount on used books for teachers, homeschoolers, and librarians.

As Danny Ciamprone reported, Garrison convinced his wife, Robyn, they should purchase the store. The sale was effective Sunday, June 1, 2014. Robyn Garrison recently quit her job to help her husband manage the shop.

The Garrisons are residents of neighboring Bolingbrook. “Even though everybody loved the fact that we're independent book store, now it's truly locally owned,” Garrison told Ciamprone.

Ciamprone wrote, “Frugal Muse will also continue to offer $1 books on its ‘bargain wall,’ as well as a section full of children's material, Garrison said. Additionally, if staff cannot find a specific title, they are willing to order and sell it at a discounted price.”

Along with the retail end of Frugal Muse, the store will also host an open mic night every third Wednesday of the month, along with book signings, kids' events and eventually a local book club.

“A store like this is never going to be a cash cow,” Garrison told Ciamprone. “As long as it keeps a roof over our head I like the fact we can employ some other people as well and help with local jobs.”

Karen Rivedal actually broke the news in the Wisconsin State Journal last September. She wrote, “[Andrew] Gaylor said he and the other [three] owners plan to sell the Darien store to its current manager, Paul Garrison.”

Founded in 1994, Frugal Muse Books, Music & Video, Inc. formerly had two shops in Madison, Wisconsin: Frugal Muse West and Frugal Muse East. There has been a Frugal Muse store on the West Side of Madison since 1994. Frugal Muse West is located at 235 Junction Road, Prairie Towne Center, Madison, Wisconsin 53717.

Ms. Rivedal broke the story about plans to sell the Frugal Muse shop in Darien to Paul Garrison in the course of an article about the closure of Frugal Muse East. “Bowing to increased pressure from online book sellers and a steady drop in foot traffic, Frugal Muse will close its longtime East Side store in Madison when its lease at Northgate Shopping Center ends in November.”

Frugal Muse East opened in the Northgate Shopping Center in 1997. Although the Web page for Frugal Muse East remains up, and the description of Frugal Muse on the home page continues to describe it as “a small, independently owned chain of three stores,” a message dated December 4, 2013 on the Facebook page of Frugal Muse Books, Music & Video, Inc. confirms that Frugal Muse East is closed.

Frugal Muse Books, Music & Video, Frugal Muse Books & Multimedia Superstore, will have a grand re-opening under the new ownership on Friday, July 25, 2014 from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. There will be a 25% off sale on used items and a 10% off sale on new items.

Free champagne and food will be served. Live music will be played. The event will coincide with Ladies Night at Chestnut Court, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. There will be sales, prizes, food, and music across the mall.

The address of Frugal Muse is 7511 Lemont Road, Suite 146, in Darien, Illinois. The phone number is (630) 472-1140.

Ross Forman broke the story in The Windy City Times on Monday, July 7, 2014 that Women & Children First Bookstore had changed ownership. Owners Linda Bubon and Ann Christopherson, who had opened Women & Children First Bookstore in 1979, placed it up for sale in October.

After they reviewed eight formal offers, the one they decided to accept in May was from two employees: Lynn Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck. The founders notified the nine-member staff on Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Women & Children First Bookstore is located at 5233 North Clark Street.

"Women & Children First Bookstore has been a critical part of Chicago's feminist and LGBT communities since the day it opened," said Tracy Baim, Publisher of The Windy City Times. "They have hosted thousands of authors from all backgrounds, and supported many causes in the community through their individual efforts and via the bookstore. Ann and Linda are community treasures, and mentors to myself and so many other women who followed in their footsteps as business owners."

Lynn Mooney, fifty-two, is a West Rogers Park resident who worked at Women & Children First for six years before she purchased it. She had worked in the publishing industry for twenty-five years, including experience at HarperCollins and McGraw-Hill.

According to Forman, “She is a New York native who has lived in Chicago for the past 20 years—and on June 25 converted her civil union to Marisa L'Heureux to a marriage. The two have been together for eight years, and L'Heureux also works in publishing.”
Sarah Hollenbeck, thirty, is an Edgewater resident who was a longtime customer of Women & Children First before she joined the staff since last September. Last month, she got engaged to actor Andrew Marikis.

Forman wrote, “She has worked at numerous bookstores for years and herself is a writer, mostly nonfiction. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Northwestern University, and her essays exploring sexuality, gender, disability, and the perception of self have appeared in various literary journals and blogs, including TriQuarterly, Dogwood, and In Our Words.”

"This enthusiastic feminist and literary pair are every bit as committed as we have been," Ms. Bubon and Ms. Christopherson wrote in an e-mail to customers, quoted by DNAinfo Chicago reporter Adeshina Emmanuel. "With their complementary skills and interests, their love of books, their feminist purpose, and their combined experience in bookselling and publishing, Lynn and Sarah are our ideal successors."

The new owners hope to renovate the 3,500-square-foot store next January and February to allow for event space. The store should remain open while it undergoes remodeling.

Ms. Bubon intends to continue working at the bookshop two to three days a week and to continue running story-times. Ms. Christopherson will act as a consultant on business matters.