A new chapter is about to begin for the 70-year-old Stroh, who is retiring from the store Dec. 31. A new chapter also is about to begin for The Bookstore, which has been a fixture in downtown Glen Ellyn since 1960 at its current location at 475 N. Main St. Longtime customers Shannon Burgess and Gail Dickson, whose daughters worked at the store while they were in high school, will take over the store's operations.
Stroh has worked at The Bookstore for 32 years, almost half of her life. She had worked for two of the store's three previous owners and purchased the store in 1997.
"I've always loved books, and I've always been very passionate about reading," Stroh said. "I taught first, second and third grades and thought it might be fun to dabble in retail. I started working here, and then I just came to love the people and the atmosphere and the community. I came and just never left."
As owner of The Bookstore, Stroh said her priority has been making the store part of the community.
"I did start staying open on Sundays," she said. "We're open late a couple of nights a week, more in the holiday season. We tried to do some author events. For many years, we did story time, and I think that the new owners are going to start that again."
Despite devices like Kindle and competition from Amazon and big-box stores, Stroh said she believes small, independent book stores like The Bookstore will be around for many more years.
"You have to be a lot more careful about ordering and the stock that you carry," she said. "You need to be a better business person than you once had to be to be able to run a book store effectively. There will always be people who love books, holding a book in their hands. We had a lot of customers that tried the e-book thing. Some of those people didn't come back, but many of them did and said, 'It's not the same experience.' They want a real book. It's easier to share a real book with friends, so you can both talk about it."
Burgess and Dickson, who live in Glen Ellyn, both know The Bookstore is an integral part of the community. To get their feet wet, they have been working in the store since earlier this year.
"We know the important role The Bookstore provides to the community, but also, we believe strongly in the importance of independent book stores and the role they play both in publishing and the ability to provide a wide range of books to local readers," Burgess said.
They will be tweaking the store's name. The store will soon be known as The Bookstore of Glen Ellyn.
"We felt it was important to identify where we are," Burgess said. "In order to stay in Glen Ellyn, we need people to continue to shop at our store."
Stroh said she will miss her customers the most, along with having the opportunity to share a book that she read.
"I will miss the people who started as customers and have become friends over the years," she said. "The other thing I know I will miss hugely is being able to share a book that I've read with somebody, especially with kids. It's just so exciting when you've read something that you really loved, to be able to talk to people about it. And that piece I know I will miss."