Two Midwestern indie bookstores have announced that they have found new owners after both were put on the market in July. One of the indies, Excelsior Bay Books, is located in an upscale and quaint Minneapolis suburb, while the other, Pilsen Community Books, is located in a historically working-class neighborhood on Chicago’s lower west side known for its large Latinx immigrant population and excellent Mexican restaurants.
Ann Woodbeck, an employee of Excelsior Bay Books from 2006 until a brief retirement from bookselling last year, bought the 23-year-old store last week store from its founding owners, Anne Nye and Ellie Temple. The store will officially change ownership on January 1, 2020. Woodbeck’s husband, Dale, the general manager of Lakewinds Natural Foods, one of the largest food co-ops in the Midwest, will be the store’s co-owner.
"Why buy Excelsior Bay Books?" Woodbeck replied in response to PW's query, "Because books have great power. Because readers are the most interesting people we know. And because we love our town and our town loves the bookstore."
According to a report announcing the sale that was published in the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association’s newsletter, Excelsior Bay will “retain its wonderful cozy charm, while also gaining a more contemporary business edge.” Woodbeck intends to establish a point-of-sale system and add a few other modern touches to the store.
While Nye is moving to the Southwest U.S.Temple will remain on staff as a bookseller, along with all of the current staff members, including Pamela Klinger-Horn, who is well known among book publishers and runs the successful Literature Lovers’ Night Out authors program.
On Tuesday morning, book publicist Mandy Medley, a principal at Nectar Literary, a boutique publicity firm, announced that Pilsen Community Books had been sold to a trio consisting of Medley, Katharine Solheim, and Thomas Flynn. The store will be officially handed off to the three by its current owners, Mary Gibbons and Aaron Lippelt, in March 2020.
Gibbons and Lippelt, who opened Pilsen Community Books in 2016, and then opened in 2018 The Dial Bookshop in downtown Chicago, in the Loop's Fine Arts Building will continue to own and operate The Dial Bookshop.
“We really love the work, but it’s time for us to admit that two stores are too much for us to handle,” the pair wrote in July when they advertised that Pilsen Community Books was for sale.
Pilsen Community Books’ new co-owners all began their careers in bookselling in Chicago and between them, have 41 years of bookselling experience. According to a release, the new co-owners “are committed to making PCB an employee owned and operated, community focused bookstore and event space.” While the bookstore currently carries predominantly used books, with a selection of new titles, the new owners intend to expand the selection of new books, with a commitment to stocking social justice titles, small press books, and Spanish-language titles. The new owners also intend to schedule regular author events and other programming at the store.
"As career booksellers, we understand that PCB is more than a store or a business, but a refuge for literature, a strong defense against the ever increasing disposability of culture and one of the few remaining third places in our rapidly privatizing society," they stated in the release.