Podcast: A Room of One’s Own faces the future

Co-owner Sandi Torkildson talks about putting the long-running downtown Madison bookstore on the market.

Co-owner Sandi Torkildson talks about putting the long-running downtown Madison bookstore on the market.


The downtown bookstore A Room of One’s Own is one of those cultural institutions without which Madison just wouldn’t be Madison. Established in 1975 amid a growing movement of feminist publishers and bookstores, Room has grown into Madison’s most well-rounded independent bookshop, with a selection and slate of author events that reach across genres and audiences. (At least in the Madison area, only Arcadia Books in Spring Green really plays in the same league selection-wise.)

Owners Sandi Torkildson and Nancy Geary announced earlier this month that they were putting the store up for sale. They’ve said that they plan to vet prospective buyers and find someone who will carry on Room’s life in the right spirit, even if that means taking a lower price for the business. Torkildson, who helped found the store, joins me on the podcast this week to talk about where she’d like to see the store go once someone else takes over.

Even though she’s looking forward to retiring, Torkildson clearly enjoys the business aspect of the store. She had a lot to say about how the business and cultural environment in downtown Madison has changed over the past 41 years, and offered a pretty nuanced take on the retail-vs.-alcohol debate currently playing out in city politics. She also isn’t averse to change, which helps to explain why Room has been able to pull through some tough times and outlast several other independent bookshops in the area. Listen to our conversation below.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and catch WORT-FM’s weeknight local news show, which partners with us to produce these. Thanks to Dylan Brogan for producing this interview.

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