Phoenix Countdown

Beef Eaters sign
Countdown to Phoenix: The Books and Gifts
Posted on May 30, 2014 by Gayle Shanks

We're opening tonight which makes today's post the last one—and it's all about the books and gifts.

Our gift buyer, Kim, and her two assistants have worked non-stop to figure out what to stock in our new store, what new gifts to show and tell you about, what creative new displays will feature them best. Kim and I have been to gift shows, talked to dozens of sales reps, making sure that what we carry isn't stocked by other stores in the nearby neighborhood. We're going to be offering a great selection—something for everyone in your circle.

If it weren't for the books and our passion and love for them, there would be no Phoenix or Tempe bookstore, no "Life Begins at 40" celebration, no nothin'.

Along with my co-buyers Sarah Brown and Brandi Stewart, we spent nearly two months assessing our shelves, looking at our bestsellers, looking at other store's bestsellers, and remembering books we read, loved and wanted on the shelves. We've been trading in extra copies of the best used books and stocking up on some great sale books and generally making ourselves crazy trying to have the perfect books for you when we open.

Finally, about two weeks ago, we said, STOP. Enough. We've done it. There are excellent new books published every day and they will also be pouring into the store as the months go by. We're excited. You'll find titles you haven't seen before and others that may give you a little jolt in your heart as you remember when you first read them.

The doors are opening. The coffee's brewing. The wine is chilling. Come and visit your new community bookstore.

Countdown to Phoenix: The Newton Group
Posted on May 28, 2014 by Gayle Shanks

Southern Rail patio
Southern Rail Kitchen
The village that is growing at The Newton includes as co-tenant neighbors our dear friends, Rosemarie Christofolo and Beth Schermer of Christofolo||Schermer LLC, both ex-lawyers and now renowned business consultants. Their local and national practice centers around organizational development and planning in fields including healthcare, technology, law, travel and hospitality, education, non-profits and government organizations. They've worked with us at Changing Hands for years and we wouldn't be the business we are today, or have even thought about expanding without their expertise and support. We are thrilled that they are moving their offices to the Newton.

The Southern Rail is another of our neighbors and I have to say that one of the joys of putting this project together has been getting to know the two couples who jointly started and run Beckett's Table and now will do the same at The Southern Rail. Chef Justin Beckett and his wife Michelle have two young boys, love to travel and are totally into all things foodie. Their partners, Katie and Scott Stephens, are wine connoisseurs, brilliant business people and kind and generous. We can't wait to try their new menu and sit on the beautiful patio facing Camelback Road.

And, the new glass enclosed addition at The Newton is going to be occupied by Southwest Gardener! Many of you know and love their garden/gift shop on 15th Avenue & Thomas — and have probably bought plants there or taken one of their great classes — and now, they will be our neighbors too! Amy and Lynn are Master Gardeners and have the most wonderful collection of tools for gardeners. So happy they are part of the project.


Coming tomorrow, Countdown to Phoenix: The Books and Gifts
Countdown to Phoenix: The Food
Posted on May 26, 2014 by Gayle Shanks

Brownies and Bloundies
What food and snacks are we serving at First Draft Book Bar in addition to coffee, wine, and beer?

Our coffee will come from Espressions Coffee Roastery, owned by Hannah Romberg, who's been roasting coffee in the Valley for 25 years. We did several tastings with her to come up with the perfect Changing Hands Blend—a French and Guatemalan mix. One of our employees, Drew, worked as a barista for years and helped make the final decision. We will also have "Coffee of the Moment" for those of you who like to try a new brew every now and then, and, of course, espresso drinks to get you going in the morning or as an afternoon pick-me-up. Our good friend Steve Schmidt (of Steve's Espresso in Tempe) and his partner Tom have refurbished a lovely old lever-style espresso machine that we will operate proudly at our new bar. It's a beautiful, vintage shade of orange, and makes terrific coffee.

As we were thinking about food, we found out that adults with autism have a hard time finding jobs that fit with their sometimes quirky personalities, and that the culinary arts are one particular area where many of them excel. Through Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC), an autism research facility that trains and employs autistic adults, we found Matt Cottle, who owns The Stuttering King Bakery, and James Pearson, a chef who runs the culinary arts program at SARRC. Since we have a very small space in which to make food, we thought having someone make it for us was the way to go. Matt is making us muffins, scones, bars, brownies, and double chocolate chip cookies. We'll be sampling his entire menu over the course of the next few months, I'm sure, since it was hard to choose from among his many offerings. His friend, Matt Resnick of SMILE Biscotti, is making biscotti for us that will make you smile, guaranteed. We're also serving hummus, quiches, and olives from SARRC. We will also have pretzels with handmade mustard, English muffins, and baguettes from local baker extrairdinaire MJ Coe of MJ Bread.


Coming tomorrow, Countdown to Phoenix: The Newton Group
Countdown to Phoenix: The Wine & Beer
Posted on May 25, 2014 by Gayle Shanks

Wine Tasting
And then comes the bar and its contents.

We had no idea what equipment we needed on the inside of the bar, but Daniel "Kuli" Hyun did. He is famous—at least in Arizona—for his ability to equip tight spaces and make it all work together—dishwasher, ice machine, refrigerators, and beer taps—all leading up to our ability to serve wine, beer, coffee, food.

Those of us who drink coffee, beer, and wine know what we like, but how do you decide what you will serve at your bar? You have to ask for help, that's how. Cindy polled the staff for their beer suggestions and they had plenty of them. We calculated the available space in the cooler and tried to decide which beers we should stock in cans—cans recycle more fully than bottles—and which would be on tap. We have four beer taps and, in addition to several bottled selections, two wine taps as well. Yes, wine can be tapped, too, and it can be delicious! We will rotate the beer taps seasonally and use several local craft brewers, but some of the beers will be your standard favorites.

As to the wine choices, we got expert help. Michael Krassner, owner of the amazing Cibo Pizzeria and Wine Cafe in downtown Phoenix, offered to do tastings with us to help us put our list together. Michael, who worked for years at the famous Wine House in Los Angeles, really knows wine. And music too—he writes film scores and plays guitar. Plus, he's no slouch at building a restaurant that is world-renowned in a once run-down part of town. Cibo Pizzeria and Wine Cafe are packed every night, and he's had choosy pizza-loving New Yorkers telling him that Cibo's is the best pizza they've ever eaten.

Wine tasting has been such a fun and educational experience for me and co-owner Cindy Dach these past few weeks. We have tasted, spit, tasted more, and then talked about what we tried and what would constitute a finely-balanced wine list. The wine distributors themselves have been helpful too, and we finally honed in on some great wines from Arizona, California, France, Italy, Spain and South Africa. Two of our favorites will be on tap, and they are just amazing wines. Can't wait to share them with you!


Coming tomorrow, Countdown to Phoenix: The Food
Countdown to Phoenix: The Staff
Posted on May 24, 2014 by Gayle Shanks

Staffing a bookstore and a bar is no small feat. Could we be so fortunate to find passionate booksellers who knew craft beers and bartenders who could recommend books? YES, we did! Or perhaps they found us.

We're so excited about our new staff members, welcome additions to our already great staff at the original Tempe store. We've hired 18 newbies and they are being trained as I type this. If you've come to the Tempe store recently, you've probably meet some of them. Our managers have updated and redesigned our training program and are executing it beautifully as they take their trainees through the various parts of working at a bookstore—staffing the registers, stocking the shelves, locating books in the computer and on the shelves, listening, smiling.

It's exciting to see the enthusiasm of these future booksellers as the work along side our passionate experienced staff members. The baristas and bartenders have just started their training too, practing at the recently-finished bar.


Coming tomorrow, Countdown to Phoenix: The Wine & Beer
Countdown to Phoenix: Bookshelves
Posted on May 23, 2014 by Gayle Shanks

You won't believe this but Barnes and Noble gave us bookcases. They have been closing stores all over the country and what do you do with thousands of running feet of bookcases? They've been donating them to libraries, schools, and now and then, to an indie bookstore. We were lucky to find them and grateful to receive them.

Of course, we don't want to welcome you to what looks like a chain store, so like everything else in The Newton project, we repurposed those shelves—they've been sanded, painted, and fitted with wheels so we can move them around when we have events, and thanks to our carpenter whose name is Bob Carpenter (really), they have a totally new look and feel.

Bob, who's been coming down to Tempe from Prescott for several months to assemble all the pieces, is currently on the East Coast buying fireworks for his summer business, so our good friend Neil Borowitz, crafter of many a fixture at Changing Hands Tempe, is stepping in to install the shelving—no small feat in our repurposed '60s building. But Neil's a master and when he finishes with them those shelves will stand tall and proud, awaiting thousands of hand-picked books. As Hamlet says, "The readiness is all."


Coming tomorrow, Countdown to Phoenix: The Staff
Countdown to Phoenix: Making it Happen
Posted on May 22, 2014 by Gayle Shanks

The Newton plans
The Newton plans
After John Douglas drew up his plans for the building and Christoph Kaiser designed the interior space, someone had to actually put hammer to nail and build it. The village of people contributing to our new bookstore includes, among others, contractors, electricians, plumbers, phone, internet and cable guys, asphalt layers, concrete smoothers, bar designers, and carpenters.

There were days when I visited and watched twenty or thirty guys scurrying around, not bumping into each other, just doing their jobs well. We saw our store growing day-by-day in front of our eyes. Credit for coordinating and supervising this part goes to Aaron Genova and Matt Parker of Venue Builders, who have guided us through this incredibly complex process with great skill, humor and patience.

I have to admit that what got me totally excited last week was seeing the cash register counters and the coffee/beer/wine bar framed in. I stood inside of them and imagined customers coming to the counter to pick up a book they had ordered or standing next to the bar sipping a cappuccino or an ice-cold beer.

That initial framing was transformed last week into a beautiful piece of sculpture by master woodworkers, Michael Abbott and Glen Cosgrove, who added redwood tops and side cladding to those bare frames. Michael is a contractor (Fulcrum Built) with expertise in timber framing as well as being a fine furniture maker. Glen is a Canadian craftsman and superb trim carpenter who has worked with Michael for many years. The redwood they are using came from the Beef Eaters original building. It's been milled, sanded, and each piece is cut and placed carefully to reflect Christoph's beautiful design that will greet you when you walk in. These recycled pieces of redwood from enormous trees have a history all their own. As you lean on them when you sit at our bar, I'm sure they will reveal their stories to you.


Coming tomorrow, Countdown to Phoenix: Bookshelves
Countdown to Phoenix: The Design
Posted on May 21, 2014 by Gayle Shanks

So how do booksellers who have been in business for 40 years—knowing what a bookstore should look like, feel like, and work like—create another magical space inside four blank walls? How does utility blend with an aesthetic that greets people as they walk in the door, make them drop their shoulders, take a deep breath and feel that this space is like no other in their experience?

It helps to team up with a great designer who loves books, loves designing interesting spaces, understands working on a bare bones budget (if he didn't know this before, he sure learned it with us!!)—and who has a track record of reusing materials, crafting beautiful furniture, remaking old houses into beautiful structures and has the ability to listen to and meet the needs of the quirkiest client.

Christoph Kaiser is amazing and fills all these roles for us, calmly, creatively. He said of the Garfield neighborhood where he lives and works:
"Neighborhoods need some interest, with some more aggressive or edgy touches to attract diverse types of people, yet still being respectful of the neighborhood's authenticity."
He is bringing those edgy yet respectful touches to our store, too. He is a joy to work with and I think you will see when you walk in our doors that the place he has designed is simultaneously magical and utilitarian. What could be better?


Coming tomorrow, Countdown to Phoenix: Making it Happen
Countdown to Phoenix: The Building
Posted on May 20, 2014 by Gayle Shanks

Gayle Shanks
The building we are moving into is a Phoenix icon; it was previously the site of many family gatherings, Rotary and Kiwanis club meetings, political jousting, and proms. Some of us had been inside and eaten with our families here. But when we first saw it, it was not the Beef Eaters of old, it was a mess! Graffiti on the walls, broken glass everywhere, the floors were uneven and dicey to walk on in the dark. We used cell phones as flashlights, propped open doors and tried to imagine if it could be made cool again. Enter John Douglas, a respected and award-winning Scottsdale architect, builder of homes, botanical gardens, solar-roofed office buildings, museum additions and other outstanding projects. He looked at this historic building and imagined reconfiguring it with a restaurant, a bookstore, and office space. The process would reuse as much as possible and stay true to the integrity of the original building while adapting the structure to new uses. John says he 'likes to build upon the lessons and delights left by a previous generation of architects" and he certainly got a project to his liking in this building.
fireplacenew tenant
buildingnew tenant
Some skylights have been added, new windows to bring in the sunshine, original concrete floors ground down and resealed, and a beautiful glass enclosed retail space added behind our store that will house Southwest Gardener, local retailer who will join us early this fall. The two original fireplaces are still intact—one in the new Event Space and one in our bookstore's children's section. The adobe bricks have been cleaned and regrouted but are still the original Queen Creek adobe used to build the walls. I love the idea that generations of Phoenicians have already walked on our floors, enjoyed fires in the fireplaces, touched the soft adobe walls, lived in the wonderful old neighborhood that is adjacent to the parking lot.

The original roofline and porte-cochère have been retained. The palm trees planted fifty years ago still grace the parking lot, which they will share with palo verdes, mesquites, succulents, and more. John Douglas has, in concert with the rest of us, designed a building that will bring pleasure to all who see it, most likely will win awards for adaptive reuse, and will bring a sense of awe to all who enter its doors. The old blends and enhances the new; the new adds depth and enchantment to the old. What could be better?


Coming tomorrow, Countdown to Phoenix: The Design
Countdown to Phoenix: The Vision
Posted on May 5, 2014 by Gayle Shanks

Gayle Shanks
It takes a village not only to raise a child but also to build and support a bookstore. Fortunately, there are a ton of villagers behind Changing Hands Phoenix, which is scheduled to open on May 15ish. Another old African proverb says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others." We've found that it is so much more rewarding to do this together, with our community. In that spirit, I thought it might be fun to give you a bit of insight as to how this all came about, who helped make it happen, and who we're playing with in this exciting venture. I'll post one mini-article a day for the next ten days, each highlighting a certain leg of the journey—from original vision to construction, design, staffing, and more. I hope you enjoy them.

For years we considered opening a second store in central Phoenix. We also thought about the many reasons for not doing so—too scary in a world where people increasingly read on electronic devices, in which leisure time seems harder to find and online sellers use books as loss-leaders. But we continued to look at spaces along the light rail corridor, walking one day from McDowell to Camelback, peering in windows, jotting down leads, hoping and dreaming. We met with leasing agents, negotiated unsuccessfully on one space, and considered adding a small room of books to Cindy's popular Roosevelt Row boutique, MADE. Nothing seemed exactly right, and we had resigned ourselves to a one-store model when along came Venue Projects—Jon and Leatrice Kitchell and Lorenzo Perez—who invited us to join them in a glorious do over of the old Beef Eaters Restaurant. I repeatedly said "no thanks," thinking we couldn't afford the rent, couldn't get a bank to lend us money, that Venue Projects might not "get" the economics of indie bookstores like ours, and couldn't really be serious about working with us.

But they were. They kept coming back and won us over. We share with them a vision of a "third place" for people to gather, eat, read, shop, maybe even enjoy a fine glass of wine with friends. Venue's mission is to create inspiring places that serve and celebrate nature while promoting community, which fits perfectly with our values. The project was born, faltered for several months while securing funding—local banks did come through for us—and we also ran a successful Indiegogo campaign that was a stunning success. Now we are just days away from opening.


Coming tomorrow, Countdown to Phoenix: The Building