Gayle's July 2014 Letter

Dear Bookstore Friends,

If you've followed this newsletter over the years, you know I'm a huge fan of TED talks. Today I discovered yet another brilliant speaker—award-winning chef Dan Barber—whose 20-minute talk about sustainable farming was so inspiring I jumped up and started writing this letter to you. It gave me hope. While reminding me of the many ways humans have compromised our planet, Barber also showed how some people, himself included, are working to repair it. And it answered a question I've been getting so often these days: Why are you opening a second bookstore in today's digital age?

TED talk Dan BarberSimple. It's the Dan Barbers of the world, the books they write, and the possibility of bringing them to our city so you can meet them. My colleagues are initiators, instigators, collectors of information, transmitters of ideas, and that is exactly what we want Changing Hands to be for our community. We work with other organizations, we form partnerships, we collaborate, and hopefully this makes the Valley a better, smarter, more connected place for all of us to live, work, and play.

Our Phoenix store is one month old, and has been so embraced by the neighborhood, the city, nearby businesses, and the media, that I've had many moments with happy tears pouring down my cheeks. People who knew the legendary Beef Eaters restaurant come back to see it transformed into a bookstore with a wine and beer bar, an event space, and Justin Beckett's Southern Rail Restaurant with its beautiful outdoor patio. Others who may not have the Beef Eaters connection are thrilled to find a beautifully designed, more urban version of our Tempe location, with great books and gifts to peruse and talk about with friends over a mug of coffee, a glass of wine, or a pint of craft beer at our new First Draft Book Bar.

But again, why did we do this? Back to Dan Barber, who has a new book out called The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food. When I mentioned it to our neighbor, Chef Justin Beckett, he nearly jumped out of his apron with enthusiasm and begged me to bring this brilliant man to our store. He told me to watch Barber's TED Talks, and now I'm badgering—not a hard task—our marketing director, Brandon Stout, to write a proposal to Dan's publisher, inviting him for a fall appearance. We're also hoping to work with ASU's School of Sustainability by bringing in local chefs who think about such issues, and get the media involved so they can help spread the word about positive things happening in the world.

Barber is the chef of the trailblazing farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. He is also a journalist crusading to help change the culture of American cooking. He grew up on a family farm and understands the drudgery of farm life as well as the joys of growing your own food—food that tastes like an adventure on your tongue, not like a processed tomato that looks like a tomato but certainly doesn't taste like one. He advocates for less exploitation of our farmlands, more integration with nature, and a viable interconnection between technology and ecology. Who wouldn't want to sit in our new event space and listen to him, perhaps taste a bit of food prepared with local ingredients, grown by local farmers, and drink a glass of wine made from grapes harvested from Arizona soil? A perfect blending of intellect, emotion, companionship, sensation, and fun. We'll keep you posted and let you know if our "pitch" was accepted, but even if Barber can't come on this book tour, do watch his TED Talks, and be inspired.

Places to gather, shop, talk, read, drink, eat, and be together as a community enrich our lives. We hope our bookstores will continue to enrich your life, and that you'll visit often. If the heat this summer makes you wish you lived somewhere, anywhere else (for a little while at least), maybe our stores can be a respite for you—cool, comfortable, a mini-staycation among books and people who read and love them.