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Wednesday, June 12

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Book Club Tue Apr 03 2012

A Look at Transistor: A Bookstore and Then Some

That Transistor in North Center is more than a bookstore is immediately obvious to anyone entering the shop. And according to owner Andy Miles, the store is the sum of four counterparts.

"We're equal parts art gallery, bookstore, music store, and specialty electronics boutique," Miles said. "I didn't want to open a store that would be any one of those single components. It's too limiting for my interests."

The store made its move from Andersonville, where it opened in 2009, to North Center last July, and has carried on in much the same way as before. Transistor represents 70 some visual artists, mostly photographers, along with some painters and print makers. They also sell handmade jewelry that Miles said is "very Transistor," like bracelets made from old film strips. And of course, books.

"I view the shop as something that's here to serve a community that's definitely not underserved online, but a lot of the stuff we sell you're not gonna find at any big box retailer," Miles said. "The internet has created a lot of niches that people might not have otherwise been aware of."

Visually, the store is as appealing as a well curated art gallery crossed with a thoughtfully decorated apartment. A black couch in the book section at the front of the store is a perfect vantage point from which to view everything available in the long narrow shop. Tin ceilings, painted silver are set off by black walls, lined with framed work. Miles said he doesn't aim to attract one particular kind of person, and instead, he's more concerned with quality merchandise that represents a broad range of interests.

"I like the fusion of the different things we're carrying," Miles said. "Somebody might come to the counter with this book about Gil Scott Heron, but also, this Thinking With Type book, and you know, a book about how to make specialty electronics. That really speaks to that person's diverse interests, and I don't think other stores can do that in the same way."

In addition to carefully selected merchandise, Transistor hosts weekly movie screenings and musical entertainment, the recordings of which can be found at Transistor's website. There's also a photo class every Saturday, two sound classes every month, and a live ambient music yoga session once a month. Miles is perhaps most proud of a radio podcast, The City Life Supplement, that records in the store.

"We host a group that comes in and records a radio podcast in front of a live studio audience in front of a live studio audience of about 30 people, and it's patterned after A Prairie Home Companion for young urbanites in Chicago," Miles said. "The made-up Chicago neighborhood that they live in is called Ravens Park, and there's a musical guest. It's very funny. That's something that I'm incredibly proud to be hosting."

Visit Transistor at 3819 N. Lincoln Ave.

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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

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