Changing Hands Celebrates Opening in Phoenix

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Changing Hands Bookstore welcomed the public through the doors of its new location in Phoenix, Arizona, with a soft-opening celebration on May 30. Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton cut the ribbon held by Cindy Dach and Gayle Shanks, co-owners of the store with Bob Sommer.

The new Changing Hands location offers a variety of new books for adults and kids and will soon present a robust events schedule, as does its 40-year-old counterpart in Tempe.

With few bookstores selling new books in the area — many chain stores have closed over the years, with another Barnes & Noble in southern Phoenix set to shutter soon — the Phoenix community was looking for a bookstore with great, new inventory and a gathering place, said Dach. Changing Hands sought to open in  Phoenix for some time, nearly five years, she said, and once the location was found and the ball started rolling, it was just over a year before the store officially opened.

Following an Indiegogo campaign to raise $80,000 that exceeded its goal by $11,000, the finishing touches were put on the store at The Newton, formerly an 18,000-square-foot Beef Eaters steakhouse that was a popular eatery for celebrations and parties. “Historically, this is a very significant building,” said Dach.

The mixed-use space, located in central Phoenix across from a light rail station and a park-and-ride facility, is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and other storefronts. It is also home to a Southern Rail restaurant and a future garden store, as well as office space, meeting rooms, and a common area for events. A “reimagined urban mall,” Dach called it.

The nearly 5,000-square-foot bookstore features dark walls and shelving, concrete floors, and exposed ceilings ducts. Metal benches built into the walls of bookcases were decorated with thought bubbles for the opening event and were a big hit with customers, whose photographs are now floating around on social media.

First Draft, a 30-seat beer, wine, and coffee bar situated to one side of the store, offers readers a choice of beverages as well as small bites and baked goods. The bar straddles the bookstore and the common space, a 2,000-square-foot area owned by the building that fellow tenants or members of the public can rent for events. First Draft holds the liquor license for the event space, which can be closed off from the bookstore by pocket doors. 

The response from the community “has been incredibly positive,” said Dach. People are “thrilled and supportive and they’re coming in and buying books.”

“As for the bar, people are really still figuring it out,” she continued. “Some of the compliments are that it’s a quiet bar where they can have a beer and read a book. It’s a place for people to meet and gather around books, and have a beer or a glass of wine.”

The events programming is rolling out as details are finalized. An event this month will feature author Lisa McMann, who was a significant contributor for the Indiegogo campaign, and the store will welcome Daniel Levitin in August for his title The Organized Mind (Dutton). Madness and Cures winery will be offering wine tastings of its Sanity Red Blend while Levitin discusses his new book.

“We’re trying to be very smart about how we roll out everything,” said Dach. “That’s going to make us a fully realized store, when we are offering all the same services as the other store.”