ANDERSONVILLE — Women and Children First, in the eyes of many Andersonville locals, is more than a bookstore — it's a staple of Andersonville's identity that embodies the neighborhood's ardor for community-focused, indie businesses.
On Oct. 11, local leaders plan to designate the corner of Clark Street and Farragut Avenue as "Honorary Women and Children First Way" to commemorate the store's contributions throughout a quarter century in Andersonville.
The digital revolution hasn't been too kind to brick-and-mortar book stores or the print book industry. Yet, Women and Children First has thrived on the North Side since the '70s. It's been at 5233 N. Clark St. since moving to Andersonville from Lincoln Park in 1989.
The timing was just right to honor the store, with founders Linda Bubon and Ann Christopherson's retirement plans and recent sale of the shop, said 48th Ward alderman Harry Osterman. He introduced the "Honorary Women and Children First Way" measure to City Council.
On Monday, Osterman praised the shop's founders for years "serving readers, kids, families and the gay and lesbian community" and advocating for independent bookstores and locally owned businesses on a national level.
Osterman is "very happy the store has transitioned to local, like-minded owners," he said, and he's confident the shop "will continue to be an Andersonville anchor for generations to come."
One of the new co-owners, Lynn Mooney, recalled being "stunned and delighted when Ald. Osterman stopped by the store a few weeks ago to let us know this was something he had arranged for."
"It was so moving that he considered our existence here in Andersonville to be so noteworthy," Mooney said.
Mooney, who helped manage the store for six years before becoming an owner, said Andersonville 25 years ago was "kind of sleepy. There wasn't much around here, certainly not in a commercial way."
Bursting at the seams at the Lincoln Park location and in dire need of more space, the store founders were wooed to Andersonville by business leaders who "wanted an independent business in the neighborhood that could act as an anchor and enticement to other locally owned indie businesses to take a look at Andersonville," Mooney said.
"Women and Children First "did the job, we did help put Andersonville on the map," she said.
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's also an active community hub that holds frequent author meetings and community events.
A leading travel website recently named it one of the country's top indie book stores.
The street designation signals that "Women and Children First is here to stay," and is "an honor to the founders and a promise to the new owners," Bubon said
"It's very exciting to think that we've created something that not only has provided us with satisfying work but may actually continue into the future," she said.
Unsurprisingly, Bubon and Christopherson got a lot of interest from potential buyers after they announced plans to sell the shop last fall — but they were adamant about holding out for the perfect buyers, folks who would keep the bookstore independently owned and maintain its feminist and LGBT-friendly focus.
Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck were chosen to succeed Bubon and Christopherson, who opened the first rendition of the store in 1979 so they, as Christopherson said, could "make a useful contribution to the world of books and to the feminist movement."
"Pioneers" — that's how Jason Cox, associate director at the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, described the store founders.
"Whether serving on our board, as both have, or serving as the president of the American Booksellers Association, which Ann has done, they have been local and national leaders and great role models for other independent retailers," Cox said. "We wish them the best in a well-earned retirement, but also know that they will not be strangers to the neighborhood."
The street designation ceremony kicks off Oct. 11, during Andersonville Arts Weekend.
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