Owners Linda Bubon and Ann Christopherson have been looking since October for somebody to take the Andersonville staple off of their hands — but demanded that any buyers carry on the shop's feminist focus and keep the business as independent as it's been since it opened in 1979.
The Windy City Times first reported the sale, and the owners confirmed it in emails sent to customers.
Bubon and Christopherson said Wednesday they found a match in store employees Lynn Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck, the new owners. Mooney, the store's manager, lives in Rogers Park and has a background in the publishing industry. Hollenbeck, of Edgewater, is a writer who performs on Chicago's live lit storytelling scene.
"This enthusiastic feminist and literary pair are every bit as committed as we have been," Bubon and Christopherson said in their email. "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."
Mooney and Hollenbeck plan to remodel the store over the winter to add an event area for author readings and other public gatherings, among other changes. The new owners intend to create a space "that physically and philosophically invites spirited, respectful dialogue about feminism — what it was, what it is, and what it must become."
The store stocks more than 30,000 books "by and about women, children's books for all ages, and the best of lesbian and gay fiction and nonfiction," according to its website.
It was named recently as one of the country's best independent book stores by Where, a website aimed at tourists and travelers across the globe. The shop is one of only a handful of feminist bookstores remaining in the country.
"While the sustainability of brick-and-mortar bookstores faces many challenges, the recent success of the first Chicago Independent Bookstore Day demonstrated how much our community cherishes its books and the beloved spaces that house them," Bubon and Christopherson said in the email.
Women & Children First opened in Lincoln Park in 1979 and moved to Andersonville in 1990.
Bubon and Christopherson were both academics studying English literature who decided to skip doctorate degrees and teaching to open a bookstore that would make "a useful contribution to the world of books and to the feminist movement," Christopherson explained last year.
The former owners are stepping away from the store, yet won't stray far. Bubon will be semi-retired but working at the store a couple days a week, continuing to run Wednesday morning children's story time and a monthly women's book group, and Christopherson will be retired, but remain tied to the store through special problems and consulting, according to Women & Children First.
In October, Christopherson told DNAinfo.com retiring "will be a difficult transition for me in some ways, emotionally."
"Because we've nurtured this business for many years. It's hard to step away from something that you've had that intimate a relationship with," Christopherson said. "I think those feelings will probably be more acute when the reality sets in, that is, when there's a buyer that we've made a deal with."
Jason Cox, associate director of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that the bookstore is "an incredibly important part of the locally-owned, independent business community that has made Andersonville a national model for other cities and towns."
"We are thrilled that it will continue on not just as a bookstore, but as a vital neighborhood institution," Cox said.
For more on the sale, read the Windy City Times story here.