Stephanie Hochschild officially took the reins at The Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Illinois, on July 1, well prepared for her new role by Roberta Rubin, who guided the store to national prominence over the past 31 years.
With a touch of sadness, Rubin said that leaving The Book Stall after three decades “does have its moments,” but she fully expects that Hochschild will excel at running the store, which was named 2012 Bookstore of the Year by Publisher’s Weekly. Rubin has been guiding Hochschild through the transition and sees a lot of potential for the store under her ownership. “She’s learning and doing a great job of looking into the future,” said Rubin.
After hearing The Book Stall was for sale last spring, Hochschild had coffee with Rubin to discuss the opportunity. With no promises of a deal, Hochschild began working part time at the store last fall to learn the ins and outs of the business — including inventory and returns, school events, book clubs, and managing the front desk. “I was shocked at how many moving parts there are,” said Hochschild.
A trained lawyer from a family of readers (both her mother and aunt were librarians), Hochschild loved the work she was doing at the bookstore and ultimately decided to make Rubin an offer. “I just couldn’t believe how much fun it was and how it would enrich my life and my family’s life,” Hochschild said. “I felt like it was important to the community to keep this bookstore going.”
In preparation for her new role, Hochschild not only worked in the store, but also attended Winter Institute 8 in Kansas City and participated in a Paz & Associates bookseller training workshop in Florida. Critically important, however, has been the tutelage of Rubin. “Roberta has been an incredibly generous teacher,” said Hochschild, who has no grand plans to change the business. “Part of it is not getting in the way of what’s an incredibly successful bookstore,” she said, so aside from instituting a stronger online presence, The Book Stall will remain just about as is.
Now settled with her husband and children in Winnetka, Hochschild’s home is within walking distance of The Book Stall, and her family is thrilled to be a part of the process of running an independent bookstore. “It’s a great family adventure for us,” said Hochschild, whose children have been happily helping with shelving books and checking out inventory. “The stack of books they want keeps growing. They know I never say no to books,” she said.
Rubin will continue to work at the bookstore for the next few months, helping to host events and assisting with operations and store logistics. She will also remain on the Board of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and is considering where else her career might take her — to writer’s groups, to literary agent work, to possibly taking the time to tell her own story. Rubin has four children in three different states and she is looking forward to having the time to visit them and is enjoying not being on call all the time.
Hochschild is also looking forward to what may come. “The future is bright for independent bookstores,” as more and more people see the value in local businesses and the individualized attention they get from indie booksellers, she said. “I’m incredibly excited for what the future holds.”