Learned Owl's new chapter begins next month in Hudson

by Tim Troglen | reporter Published:

Hudson -- On March 15, local history will be made.

On that day, for the first time since 1983, someone other than Liz Murphy will own Main Street's Learned Owl Book Shop.

Murphy and the shop's events coordinator, Kate Schlademan, signed papers Feb. 15 which will turn the store over to Schlademan, of Stow, March 15.

Details of the deal were not released. However, the sale includes the business, but not the building the shop is located in.

Murphy announced last year that she was looking for someone to take over the shop and is confident she found the right successor.

"I am thrilled to have sold the Owl to Kate, but did tear up a little when I signed the actual purchase agreement -- it has been a fabulous and magical adventure for me for the past 29 1/2 years," Murphy said Feb. 15. "I talked to many wonderful people over the 10 months of my search, and I am convinced that Kate is the perfect successor to take the Owl forward into the coming decades -- we have both been walking around beaming all morning."

Schlademan, hired in 2011 as a story teller during the initial "International Festival," is no stranger to the daily operation and inner workings of the shop.

"She quickly became a staff member, then events coordinator, and has been, at least unofficially, my full-time manager for the past year," Murphy said.

During the signing Schlademan was "overwhelmed by how easy it all seemed at that moment," she said.

"Liz and I had both been working so hard to make it happen and once we started signing it really only took about 10 minutes," Schlademan said.

A portion of the initial $50,000 down payment was raised by Schlademan through an online crowdsourcing site. Crowdsourcing is an online fundraising tool whereby proposals are made through a service that facilitates donations to various causes outlined on the service's website.

Her transition from owner to "best customer for years to come" will be difficult, Murphy said.

"Increasingly over the past years, my identity has been one with the Owl and it will be hard for me to step back, and difficult to remember not to say on the phone, 'This is Liz from The Learned Owl,'" Murphy said. "But I'll be around."

Murphy and her husband, Greg, who runs a handyman company, plan to stay in Hudson, Murphy said. Murphy wants to become more involved with Destination Hudson and will continue working with the Merchants of Hudson, she said.

"I'm going to maintain my current role [as board member] until they no longer want me, or need me," Murphy said. "I've been looking for someone to take over that role."

Murphy, not a traveler, prefers the sights and sounds of Hudson.

"Give me my garden in the summer, a fireplace in the winter, a pile of books and a glass of wine, and I am most content to stay at home," Murphy said.

Murphy does not remember the first book she sold, but remembers the confusion of buying the store with a business partner "without the vaguest notion of what we were doing at the time," she said.

"We didn't know where anything was in the store," Murphy remembered. "So we would kind of get the customer to tell us what kind of book it was and 'how would you describe that book.'"

The new owners did not have a computer organized stock list, just "a Rolodex card to tell us if it was in stock or not."

As for the last book sold as owner, Murphy said "it hasn't happened yet, I'm still selling."

"I won't be able to tell you [the last book sold] until March 14," she said laughing.

Murphy did promise customers "the things they love about the Owl will not change."

The only big plans Schlademan has for the store now is "to ensure a smooth transition where the customers and staff can see that the things they love most about the Owl will still be here," Schlademan said.

"Over the years Liz has made it possible for the store to grow and change with the industry and the community," Schlademan said. "I plan to follow in her footsteps and commit myself to making sure that the Learned Owl will continue to be the place we have all come to know and love."

The majority of the staff will remain, Schlademan said.

"I love the staff here," Schlademan added. "They are a big part of the reason the store continues to be successful. I know a few are getting ready to retire, but for the most part the staff as is."

Schlademan credits support from community, friends, family, strangers, and most of all Liz," for helping with her decision and purchase of the shop.

"I'm overjoyed to be taking over a place that is filled with so much magic for so many people," Schlademan said. "I would encourage everyone who does not know me to come in and say hello -- I could talk all day about my dedication and commitment, but if you really want to know me than you need to see it in action."

The shop is planning a celebration March 26. Details of the celebration will be announced in the future, Murphy said.

And while the shop will be in a state of transition, Schlademan said Murphy's sell is not about endings.

"It is about new beginnings and a family that will continue to grow and prosper," Schlademan said.

Email: ttroglen@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9435

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