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Changing Hands Bookstore | 40 years of entrepreneurship

Home / Success stories / Changing Hands Bookstore | 40 years of entrepreneurship
Bob Sommer
Changing Hands Bookstore

“Books change lives.”

Changing Hands has been Arizona’s independent bookstore for independent minds since 1974. While many brick-and-mortar bookstores struggled to stay open after the rise of the Internet, we’ve enjoyed moderate success.

It started with luck in the ’70s when our nearest competition was closing just as we opened. Our luck continued in the ’80s when we found a great location on Mill Avenue and continued there into the late ’90s when we were able to move to our current Tempe location next to a suburban Trader Joe’s and a Wildflower Bread Company after having to leave Mill Avenue just as it was being dominated by sports bars and national chains.

In 2014, we opened a second location in Phoenix for Changing Hands Bookstore and First Draft Book Bar.

Some of our biggest — and most stressful — challenges have been the economic downturns. We learned to run lean as several employees moved on of their own accord, cut owner salaries and kept all the staff members who wanted to ride it out with us. When the upturn arrived, we were well-positioned to reap the rewards.

After more than 40 years running a business, the greatest lessons I’ve learned from being an entrepreneur are to hire good people, pay them a fair wage, provide them with basic benefits (earned sick leave, affordable health insurance), train them well and then give them the space to innovate, make mistakes and learn the things you couldn’t teach them. If you commit to treating your employees well, your investment will be rewarded.

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