Book Shelf store becomes Thrifty Owl Book Shop under new ownership

by Laura Bednar

What was The Book Shelf on 152 E. Aurora Rd. in Northfield is now The Thrifty Owl Book Shop, retaining its business model of selling used books and allowing trade-ins for store credit.

Patti Shirkman and her husband bought the bookstore in 2006, when it was part of a franchise known as the “Book Rack.” She renamed it to “The Book Shelf” so she could carry required reading for schools, which the franchise disallowed. Shirkman had worked at the store for two and a half years and had previously worked as the librarian at Ledgeview Elementary.

Her employees also had schooling and literature backgrounds. Ann Andrassey was an aide at Nordonia High School and Dona Basel was a librarian for The Plain Dealer. The two remained on staff when the new owner took over.

Kate Schlademan and her fiancé Wes Hilton purchased The Book Shelf in August, renaming it Thrifty Owl, a nod to Schlademan’s other bookstore in Hudson, The Learned Owl. She has been the owner there for 10 years, and when the opportunity to acquire another bookstore presented itself, she jumped at the chance. Shirkman was looking to retire after her husband passed away last year, and she couldn’t run the store alone anymore.

“I was so happy to have found Kate,” she said. “She is continuing my husband’s and my dream of owning a bookstore.”

Schlademan said she “wanted to make sure the store stayed in the community.” Her mother’s neighbor had seen the store listing on an online neighborhood group and relayed the information. Her mother also found out The Learned Owl was for sale a decade earlier, mentioning her daughter (who was an employee there) might be interested.

“She is the catalyst,” Schlademan said, laughing.

Shirkman and her husband Steve had considered purchasing The Learned Owl when it was for sale, but didn’t want to move to Hudson.

The Thrifty Owl includes mostly fiction titles but also non-fiction and children’s books. The inventory of books came with the new purchase, and Schlademan said there are close to 36,000 books in the 1,000-square-foot building.

“It’s wall to wall,” she said, adding that it was a learning experience working with the space, as The Learned Owl has three floors.

She and Hilton are partners in the endeavor with Hilton helping with marketing, inventory and designing the shop’s logo. The store held a grand opening on Oct. 29, the same day the couple got engaged.

Schlademan doesn’t plan to change much in the way of the store.

“We want it to be the same wonderful place the community embraced for so many years already,” she said.

One addition may be carrying more puzzles than the store already has, with a potential expansion into selling board games as well. Overall, Schlademan aims to keep the idea of community at the forefront.

“Community involvement is a great model for bookstores,” she said. “We want it to be a thriving place for people to talk and [we want to] support others in the community, especially charitable organizations.”

Wes Hilton (l) and Kate Schlademan celebrate the grand opening
of their book shop with a cake. Photo by Jack Kananian