Popular Madison bookstore temporarily closes after downtown displacement, directs customers to the ‘competition’

A Room of One's Own will reopen in the Atwood neighborhood this August

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 to get less tourist traffic and student shoppers at her new location. But they say the Atwood neighborhood is known for its small businesses, walkability, and focus on family, so they think the shop will be a good fit.

Treu is also excited to once again open their 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,” Treu 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 the store’s sales transpired in-person. None of those were possible in 2020, but despite that, the store 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 the shop is closed through August 5th, they are 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,” Treu 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.

RELATED: Fall reading recommendations from three local bookstores

(Note: an earlier version of this story used incorrect pronouns for Treu, using she/her instead of they/them.)