A beloved bookstore in Oak Park catering primarily to children and young adults will continue operations under new ownership.
Beth Albrecht, the soon-to-be owner of Magic Tree Bookstore, 141 N. Oak Park Ave., said the deal between her and outgoing co-owners Iris Yipp and Rose Joseph is expected to be completed by the end of the month.
Yipp and Joseph announced last summer their plans to retire and sell the bookstore they founded in 1984. Joseph said at that time that she hoped the location would remain a bookstore.
“Oak Park without another bookstore would be unfortunate,” Joseph said last year.
Enter Albrecht: a prolific local volunteer, she is also a former actor, journalist, illustrator and teacher, who also happens to be the former spouse of one of Oak Park’s more famous residents, Peter Sagal, host of the popular NPR game show “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me.”
Albrecht, who has three daughters in Oak Park schools, said she was already very familiar with the store when she found out it was up for sale.
“When I heard this opportunity was happening it was like bells started ringing in my head,” she said, adding, “I’ve always really loved this store. Iris and Rose are such incredible treasures.”
Albrecht said in an interview Friday that we are living in the “golden age of children’s books,” because of the quality and number of books being written for young adults and middle school-aged kids.
“Young adult books and middle school books are being written by wonderful writers who are speaking to children as if they are intelligent because they are and that’s important,” she said. “There’s also a new wave happening right now where writers of adult fiction are also writing young adult fiction.”
Speaking of writers who span a wide breadth of age demographics, Albrecht wore a T-shirt at the store on Friday picturing the work of Neil Gaiman, author of the Hugo Award-winning novel American Gods. Asked about the T-shirt, Albrecht noted she is a huge fan of Gaiman’s work and happens to be a personal friend. She said Gaiman, who is an outspoken proponent of libraries and bookstores, encouraged her to buy the store.
Albrecht was quick to note that in addition to children’s and young adults’ authors, Magic Tree also carries a selection of titles by adult authors.
Albrecht said she plans to continue and add to in-store events, such as poetry readings, book clubs and book signings.
In honor of National Poetry Month, the store will host a series of events for teens, she said. Partnering with Oak Park and River Forest High School’s spoken word club, the store is holding an open-mic poetry reading on April 23 at 7 p.m.
“I’m just so excited because it’s a different kind of event than we usually have, and I hope people come and see what we have to offer,” she said.
Albrecht said she feels fortunate that while Yipp and Joseph will be leaving – only as owners; expect them to still have a presence at the shop – she is lucky that the rest of the staff will remain at Magic Tree.
Yipp said the store originally opened on Madison Street just east of Ridgeland but relocated to the current storefront in 1989. A little known fact: the third original partner in Magic Tree was Sharon Patchak-Layman who went on to serve on local public school boards for 20 years. She was defeated just last week in her bid for a fourth term at OPRF.
Yipp said she was relieved that the shop will continue on as a bookstore.
“We do more than sell books here; we have events and we want to make it so people can meet the people behind the books,” she said. “It’s kind of a community endeavor.”