With a Princeton undergraduate degree, a law degree from Georgetown, and legal experience ranging from corporate litigation in New York City to serving as Delaware’s Deputy Attorney General, Winnetka’s Stephanie Hochschild is uniquely qualified to take on any number of challenges. But what she chose to do, some eight years ago, is to devote her extraordinary talents to enhance the legacy of The Book Stall of Winnetka.
“I’m passionate about books, about authors, about the play of ideas, and the sheer joy of reading. Through The Book Stall, I get to live that passion every day and share it with others. How many people get to do that?” asks Hochschild.
Hillary Clinton, JK Rowling, Veronica Roth, David Ross, and Pat Conroy are just some of the bold names, luminaries, and newsmakers who made The Book Stall their signature stop on Chicago’s North Shore for in-person book signings, helping define The Book Stall’s status as a Winnetka mainstay.
As the daughter and niece of librarians, Hochschild had a love of reading written into her DNA. Summers were spent reading stacks of library books in the backyard and to this day she is never without a book or two in her purse.
But well before Hochschild took the helm of The Book Stall, she first came to know it as a mother to three voracious readers who loved to stop at the store to pick out their next favorite book. As time went on, The Book Stall had an even larger place on the young family’s schedule, as they joined neighbors and friends at events ranging from fun activities for young readers, special author evenings, and book-buying for friends and family, far and wide.
Over 40 years ago, The Book Stall came into being, first on Chestnut Court and now at its current location on Elm Street. During that time, much has changed but much has remained the same: personal service, involvement in, and steadfast support of the community at large are part of the proud tradition of The Book Stall. And the community’s connection to it. “Even in this challenging time, we remain hopeful and extremely grateful for the support we receive from the community,” says Hochschild.
She has added her own mark to The Book Stall, building a vibrant social media presence and a robust online business. Surrounded by an excellent staff of booksellers and a manager, Hochschild’s primary role is selecting books for the store’s shelves. One of her main interests is introducing young readers to children’s authors. Although The Book Stall works with schools throughout Chicagoland, Hochschild has particularly enjoyed collaborating with the Learn Charter Schools, bringing well-known authors into classes and donating signed books.
“The stories literally jump off the pages for these students. It is truly magical to watch an author interact with and personally sign a book for each child—it’s a life-changing moment,” she says. “I’m proud that The Book Stall works to bring this experience to hundreds of school children each year.”
Like many small business owners, these past few months have brought unprecedented challenges that called for innovative new ways to serve customers. Personal deliveries, including festive “elves” to deliver holiday items directly to area homes and the handsome gift wrap that’s The Book Stall standard, are just part of the reason customers look to the store as their preferred source. The Book Stall also offers instore appointment shopping as well as phone and email support. Given the impact of COVID-19, early shopping is encouraged this holiday season.
The Book Stall’s team reflects the deep commitment Hochschild has for authors and the industry overall. “Quite simply, our staff cares about each of our customers who walk in the door—and that’s because to us, they’re more than customers, in many cases, these are our neighbors and friends. So we go the extra mile to determine just the right book.”
“We pride ourselves on being the perfect place to raise a reader. A particular strength is the Children’s Department, staffed by dedicated booksellers, two of whom have worked as educators on the North Shore. With regular storytimes—now virtual— and an expansive array of titles, The Book Stall welcomes young readers with open arms,” explains Hochschild.
The Hochschilds are “all in,” making The Book Stall a family affair, with husband Roger participating at author events, and even starring as guest host, interviewing C-suite and other authors, while their now-adult children work with customers, unpack books, stage the window, and more. “That’s been a very rewarding part of owning The Book Stall, seeing how our children have learned first-hand what it takes to run a successful business and to contribute to the community in a meaningful way,” notes Hochschild.
The Book Stall’s love for the community seems to be written in stone.
The Book Stall is located at 811 Elm Street in Winnetka, 847-446-8880, thebookstall.com.