Gayle's April 2014 Letter: Life Begins at 40

Dear Bookstore Friends,

It feels momentous to write the words "Changing Hands Bookstore is forty years old." Forty years of reading. Forty years of hiring and training passionate 'hands' to pass books from theirs into yours. Forty years of children finding Harold and the Purple Crayon and Where the Wild Things Are. Forty years of bookselling. Forty years of authors sharing their delight with the faces rapturously looking at them from our chairs. Forty years of connections with other local businesses. Forty years of reading publisher-supplied Advanced Reading Copies and discovering the next Abraham Verghese, Arundhati Roy, Nicole Krauss, Jonathan Safran Foer, Mark Haddon, Junot Díaz, and others. Forty years of the best, most generous colleagues in the world, on my staff and across the country. Forty years of enthusiastic support from generations of loyal locals and out-of-staters who return year after year.

We were fools those many years ago—an apt image for our first logo—but fools in the best sense of that word: naive, simple, aspiring to the impossible, ready to step over the edge of the cliff with no idea where that next footfall would land us. We were unschooled in the ways of the business world, thinking we could invent anew the parts we didn't understand or that didn't sit well with us. We thought we could collectively run a bookstore, asking new people to work with us and giving them ownership in the fledgling store that paid a measly $2 an hour. We learned that decision-making with a dozen people didn't always work so well and that business success required vision, but also a shared set of values, commitment, trust and mutual respect. We reduced the number of decision makers but continued to involve all the people who worked with us, learning from them, asking for their help while creating and re-creating a bookstore that fits our community.

In past generations forty was old, often the number of years you might live and be well enough to wander the planet, or at least your tiny part of it. Today, forty is mid-life and often involves reinventing yourself, trying something new, but this time instead of the rashness of youth, there is often experience and knowledge informing the next phase of life. Changing Hands is having, not a mid-life crisis as these new endeavors are often called, but a mid-life reawakening. There are days when we feel a little foolish, but we are mostly feeling worldly, knowing that our second store project in central Phoenix is totally the right and heartfelt thing to do. We are stretching, experiencing, retracing, breathing, and embracing as we move along this path. There have been moments of worry, financial woes, and doubt, but we are weathering those moments by strengthening our relationships with our future co-tenants and the brilliant team of future-thinking individuals who brought us all into this project, now called The Newton. We hear from our community every day that a strong independent bookstore in the heart of the city I grew up in is a great thing to create, which is reassuring.

We'd love you to celebrate with us, this magical 40. We are honoring our love of books, our loyal customers, our passionate staff, and the new beginnings on Camelback Road. We are having a party—cake, champagne, free henna tattoos, music, face painting and magic shows for the kids—on Saturday, April 5.

John Barrymore once said, "A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams." I think that must be true for this woman writing you today as well. As long as I am a part of a group of dreamers, I will stay young and energized and have few regrets. A very lucky woman, am I who thanks you all for these 40 amazing years.

It's our birthday, but we're giving you the gift!

Click here to download a printer-friendly coupon, bring it into the store and receive 15% off any one item between Tuesday, April 1 and Saturday, April 5. It's our way of saying thank you for supporting us all these years. Here's to the next 40!

And be sure to join us Saturday, April 5 for our official 40th Anniversary Celebration! Full schedule »
15% off coupon