Changing Hands began as a dream on the porch steps of an alternative school for kids where Tom Brodersen, Gayle Shanks and Bob Sommer met each other as volunteers. One day we talked about what we'd really like to do with our lives and the idea hatched was a little socially responsible bookstore and community gathering place. A few years later, Tom bought a small bookstore for $500, all he had at the time! The store was losing its lease and the books were packed up until a new location could be found.
Changing Hands opened on April Fool's Day, 1974 with a big interest in books and community service. We had an eye toward books not readily available elsewhere. Over the first few years we listened to suggestions made by customers, many of whom became friends. Some of those friends became employees at the store which was originally set up as a worker-owned business where decisions were made by consensus.
We outgrew our original 500' space on 5th St. and moved in 1978 with the help of a human book brigade of customers and friends to Mill Avenue where we had an amazing 1728' of space on two levels. Within a few years that space was too small and we broke through the wall ending up with three levels of books and greeting cards. Seven years later, another hole in the wall, another expansion and the store was up to 5,000 square feet.
The worker-owned collective also evolved over the years. As the business grew, making decisions with a large group became unwieldy. We reduced to a core group and started hiring workers as employees. We still maintain a commitment to fairness and involvement with all our employees. In 1998 we opened a 15,667 sf second location on the SW corner of McClintock and Guadalupe. We share this beautiful new space with The Wildflower Bread Co. In early 2000, conditions at our Mill Avenue location forced us to close that store, but we continue our commitment to serve our community at our new location.