Bookstories
Dear Bookstore Friends,

Gayle Shanks Meteorologists and horticulturists are saying we've had an ideal combination of rain and sunshine for an abundance of wildflowers to flourish in the Valley and, looking out across my front and back yards, it seems they're right. Credit is also due to the birds, breezes, and wildflower fairies who scattered the seeds of the previous year's dying blooms, resulting in the miraculous swaths of color that have turned yards into mini Desert Botanical Gardens. Clouds of white sweet alyssum abound, along with pink, orange, and rose penstemon, baby bells, bright yellow daisies, orange poppies, blue cornflowers, and deeper blue lupine. Passersby stop to breathe in the scent and take pictures with their phones. My mailman says we have the most wonderful yard on the block and that he can't wait to deliver our mail each day. I thrive on this beauty, and, as you who read my letters know, I love pulling weeds and being among the flowers. It's a celebration of and communion with nature at its best.
 

Celebration is a theme this spring, as Changing Hands is turning 45 years old on April 1. That's a milestone for any business, especially these days when retail has been disrupted and impacted so dramatically by internet shopping. We're so grateful to so many for the support we've received over the decades. We wouldn't be here without our customers, our friends and families, our vendors, our publisher and wholesaler partners, and our amazing staff of dedicated booksellers. We wouldn't be here without the vision of my first partner, Tom Brodersen, who bought a small, failing used bookstore on Mill Avenue, then packed up the books and waited until our first location at 9 East Fifth Street became available, and who subsequently invited me and Bobby to join him in what was to become one of the preeminent independent bookstores in the country. We couldn't have predicted that level of success from our humble 500 square-foot used bookstore beginnings. Tom's vision is the creative spirit that continues to inspire us even after his move to northern Arizona some thirty-six years ago.
 

As I think about the hundreds of employees we've had over the decades—whose 'hands,' I think, are now changing the world for the better—I am in awe and often brought to tears. Janet, who worked for us through her student years at ASU, is now an environmental lawyer working on climate change issues in the U.S. and Europe. Jessica, who was carried into the store as an infant, grew up in our store, and then joined us in opening and managing the McClintock store, now teaches creative writing at a prestigious college back east. She brings her kids into the store when she travels back to the Valley to visit her parents. Vince is raising sled dogs in Flagstaff. Elise runs an amazing book group and takes in rescue dogs. Kyle, who designed so many systems for us, is working for the State Parks department and now gets paid to hike those same parks he once frequented on his vacation days. Our amazing Pinna, who has the singing voice of an angel, is still working with us after forty years. She plans community events, orders books, and pays attention to many of the details that allow the store to function well. Brandon, who has worked with us for nearly twenty years and has become a dear, dear friend, now serves as our extraordinary marketing manager, coordinating author visits, spreading the word about upcoming events, and sharing our collective thoughts on political developments and curious incidents in the book industry. And then there's Kim, our gift buyer, who has changed the store over the years into a lovely place not only to buy books but to find extraordinary gifts. She, too, has become like a sister to me.

And then there are my two partners, Bobby and Cindy. Books, HR, lease negotiations, finances, tears and laughter fill our years together. Bobby, my life partner and bookstore co-conspirator, is happiest when rearranging the display of oracle cards, ordering just the right sale books for our shelves, printing out staff recommendations, and all the while making sure we are fiscally sound. Cindy changed our world when she came to work for us twenty years ago. She figured out how to make our events an enormous part of our business; she has done the mundane work of flowcharts and operations manuals, which changed our company culture; she has a thousand-watt smile and the energy of ten people. She's endeared herself to the staff and our community and is essential to the future of our store. She, too, has become my sister and dear friend.

I would be remiss without mentioning our friends Kent Brockelman and Rosemarie Christofolo, who have counseled us both legally and professionally because they love us and our stores and want us to be in their lives and community. They have supported us emotionally as well, and we owe them an incalculable debt of gratitude. We're so fortunate to have them both in our lives.

There are many others. Far too many to mention in this already-long letter. I hope you all know who you are—my bookseller colleagues, who are the best group of professionals in the world, sharing everything they know with one another; my mentors and teachers; authors who write the amazing books we love to sell; community leaders who fight to make sure local independent businesses continue to exist; the Wildflower Bread Company, Local First AZ, and our partners at The Newton in Phoenix, who brought us in to be their prime tenant, and with whom we've come to share so much.
 

We invite you to celebrate with us this momentous time in our history. On Saturday, March 30 we're having a small party in both stores. Click here for details, and please do come and share your Changing Hands stories with us. Your stories are our story. Without you, we would not exist—we would not want to exist. You visit us, you bring your children to visit, you meet our author guests, you meet one another, you trade in your books, you buy books. You read. You keep our culture strong. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
 
 
~Gayle~

Questions or comments? Email Gayle at gayle@changinghands.com
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