Transistor: An Andersonville Shop for the Art/Book/Music Lover
Transistor is one of those hard-to-define Andersonville stores. When describing it to a friend, you can’t quite put your finger on it. On my first visit to the storefront on Clark Street just north of Winnemac in Andersonville, I was a little confused, too. Was it a record store? A bookstore? With art for sale on every inch of wall, and amps, instruments, and headphones on display, I had to ask — what is Transistor?
The website attempts to define the Transistor experience for the puzzled but awed consumer: “Transistor is equal parts art gallery, bookstore, CD & record shop, electronics boutique and more.”
And somehow it works.
The store opened in fall 2010 under the management of owners Rani Woolpert and Andy Miles, both of whom have immersed themselves in the art and media worlds over the years, including forays into art galleries, radio broadcasts, and magazine and digital publishing. Both residents of Andersonville, they were inspired to make their vision — equal parts art, lit, and music experience — into a reality. Thus, Transistor was born.
Transistor is one of those spaces where you could spend hours on end, looking at every item in the store. Upon entering the sleek storefront, your body may be shocked by a sensory overload — colorful objects, pulsing music, and excitement can overwhelm even the returning visitor. The walls are completely covered in limited edition concert posters, photography featuring urban landscapes, and large-scale portrait paintings by local Chicago artists. Several tables and cabinets fill the open, high-ceilinged room. No display space goes unused. You can find avid music fans cross-legged on the floor perusing a stack of records or a stylish young lady crouched over a display of statement metal jewelry. A large, orange stage fills a quarter of the room, and although used as display space during the day, it reminds visitors that Transistor is so much more than what it appears to be.
This isn’t your usual neighborhood record store. (Chicago already has plenty of those), so don’t expect to go hunting for a vintage music collection or that one out-of-production blue note you’re dying to find. This is an entirely new music experience altogether, and the owners have been sure to push that image. The store carries several newly released records and CDs with some exceptions for favored bands. Some of these bands you may not have heard of, but that’s okay, because Transistor is pumping out the jams found in-store, so you can listen while you shop. The selection includes mostly indie-rock and electronica, including recent releases from bands such as Animal Collective, Psychedelic Furs, and Spoon.
As for the book selection, this isn’t the place to find that new Jodi Picoult novel you’ve been dying to read or a used copy of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The store carries art and culture books including lush coffee table books and quirky musician memoirs. They have books for the art and music lover in all of us, which is what Transistor is all about.
In addition to an eclectic storefront, Transistor transcends retail by offering several programs, which have transformed the store and its owners into essential parts of the community.
Earlier this year, Transistor launched its own internet radio, Transistor Radio, which plays from 1pm-7pm everyday. The repertoire mainly sticks to newly released records, so the radio programming reflects the music taste listeners are able to purchase in-store. The radio programming also offers replays of live sessions that have been recorded during Transistor’s several events. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to check out their Friday night music series, suggested donation $5, which they also record for their broadcast.
On Tuesdays, Transistor hosts free movie screenings from various genres including art house, documentary, independent, and mainstream films. Transistor also offers workshops including painting, drawing, other art classes, and software classes, such as Photoshop. You can check out their calendar for upcoming events to discover something that interests you.
Transistor also recently introduced art supplies to purchase in-store, so for those interested in their painting and drawing workshops, you can head right to Transistor to not only learn your craft but purchase your required materials, as well.
Still not quite sure what Transistor has to offer you? Take a trip to Andersonville and see it for yourself. Check out one of their workshops or free movie screenings, rock out to their tunes on Transistor Radio, or visit their storefront to peruse their selection of art, books, music, and more.
Location: 5045 N. Clark Street
Hours: 1-7 pm Mon-Sun
Driving: Street Parking
L: Red Line, exit at Argyle or Berwyn
Bus: #22, exit at Winnemac