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Popular Madison bookstore temporarily closes after downtown displacement

A Room of One's Own

MADISON, Wis.– It’s a new chapter for a beloved local bookstore. After nearly 50 years downtown, A Room of One’s Own is moving three miles east: into a historic building in the Atwood neighborhood, most recently occupied by Threshold.

The 4500-square-foot, 100-year-old space is a little smaller than the bookstore’s most recent home on Gorham Street, but this move will bring about several big changes.

Gretchen Treu, who’s co-owned the shop since 2018, expects she’ll get less tourist traffic and student shoppers at her new location. But she says the Atwood neighborhood is known for its small businesses, walkability, and focus on family, so she thinks her shop will be a good fit.

Treu is also excited to once again open her doors to customers. A Room of One’s Own has been closed to foot traffic since March of 2020.

“They’re the reason we do this,” she explained. “We didn’t sign up to be online booksellers. We signed up to be an in-person, brick-and-mortar store.”

Pre-pandemic, 90% of Treu’s sales transpired in-person. None of those were possible in 2020, but despite that, the bookstore ended the year just 20% shy of its 2019 sales, thanks in part to $120,000 worth of PPP loans, as well as a fiercely loyal customer base.

The love is mutual: Treu is so committed to meeting the needs of the local literary community that, while her shop is closed through August 5th, she’s directing customers to do something you don’t often from a business owner: Shop at the competition.

“Technically they’re our competition,” said Treu. “But they’re what makes the Madison community special and important. Some bookstores offer things we don’t.”

“And right now,” she continued, pausing to laugh. “That’s anything at all.”

According to the Facebook post on A Room of One Own’s page, Itty Bitty Bookstore, Mystery to Me, and Kismet Books will all be open while Treu’s shop isn’t.

A new bookstore-cafe-bar hybrid called Leopold’s also recently opened in the former Greenbush Donuts space on Regent Street.