Where is it located?
Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. 1845 N Western Ave, ½ block south of Western & Milwaukee and the Western Blue Line stop.
How long have you owned the bookstore?
Challengers opened on March 31, 2008, so we’re just over 12 years old.
Why did you buy/open a bookstore?
I grew up reading comic books. Thanks to my older brother George, comics were literally a part of my life for as long as I’ve had memories. Comics have such a strongly defined moral code and they also have an unlimited special effects budget. So many stories can ONLY be told thru the medium of comic books, and that’s amazing. I always wanted to be a part of the comic book industry. I have degrees in illustration and art history, and I got a job in a comic shop immediately after graduating college. Years later one of my best friends, W. Dal Bush, convinced me there was a better way to sell comics, so we opened Challengers. And for the record, he was totally right.
What is the cool part of owning a bookstore?
That feeling when you introduce someone to a book you just know they’ll love, and they do.
Any authors you think middle grade readers should check out?
Anything Raina Telegemeier produces; Mark & Alexis Siegel’s “5 Worlds” series; Robin Ha, Kazu Kibuishi, Kean Soo, Victoria Jamieson, Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Shannon Hale, Dana Simpson, Sean Rubin, and I can go on and on…
What is a hard part of owning a bookstore?
The actual business part of it. Paperwork, taxes, bills. Juggling multiple distributors, finding who has what in stock, etc. The love of comics is easy. Sharing that love with others is the goal. Paying for it, keeping records of it, re-ordering it, that’s the grind. But, you know, totally worth it.
How has COVID-19 impacted your bookstore?
We’ve been closed to walk-in traffic since March 22, 2020, but we have opened an online storefront via Shopify that has all of our in-stock graphic novels and comic books available for purchase. Obviously, sales are nowhere near what they were when people could actually come into the store, but we’ve been happy with the online business we’ve been able to maintain during the Illinois stay-at-home order.