It’s like a scene from the 1995 post-slacker cult classic flick "Empire Records," in which hip young wage slaves band together to save their beloved independent record shop.
The hip young employees at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, long bummed by the lack of customers their age (since creeping gentrification squeezed the shop from Mill Avenue to more suburban strip mall digs at McClintock Drive and Guadalupe Road five years ago, the customer demographic is more 60-yearold women and soccer moms, employees say) or, frankly, any in-store activities that interested them, recently decided to take matters into their own hands.
EMBRACING YOUNG READERS
They started a club. Picked a chic, insiderish name: Page 23. (It’s a reference to an online personality profile game in which you turn to a particular page in the nearest book and type a sentence within.) Started a MySpace group. Met after work and, over beers, brewed a mission to bring in their favorite hipster authors for book readings and pair them with booze and live bands.
"I’m so tired that books aren’t cool. That’s my motivating factor," says Changing Hands marketing director and events planner Cindy Dich (who, shh, is 38, though Page 23ers have deemed her hip enough to hang).
"Everybody’s like, ‘We have to save reading.’ Our attitude is, maybe we don’t worry about that. Maybe we just embrace those that read."
BOOK READINGS, MUSIC AND MORE
Monday night the group brought Davy Rothbart, founding editor of Found magazine and "This American Life" contributor (translation: 200 cool points) to the cozy Phoenix nightclub-cum-art gallery Modified Arts, where, with ironic hip-hop bling shimmering around his neck (100 more irony-tinged cool points), he read from his latest shortstory collection, "The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas," and introduced his brother, Peter Rothbart, who played acoustic folk music.
It was one of the Valley’s few book readings littered with copious F-bombs (150 cool points).
Friday night, the Page 23ers will buck Changing Hands’ usual roster of in-store tarot readings, knitting clubs and book groups to host a free reading by Salvador Plascencia ("The People of Paper") and Jack Pendarvis ("The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure"), followed by a performance by local band Andrew Jackson Jihad at Mac’s Broiler and Tap, the pub next door.
Booking a reading by Plascencia — a debut novelist whose publisher, David Eggers’ McSweeney’s, is the publishing house du jour for young literati — was a major coup for Page 23.
"We started e-mailing him, bugging him until he agreed to come," says Changing Hands employee Russ Baurichter, 27.
The author is paying his own way out to the event.
In December, Page 23 is bringing acclaimed album cover artist Chip Kidd to the store.
MOMENTS RATHER THAN MONEY
Dich says Changing Hands is looking at Page 23 to not necessarily translate into direct sales — the Davy Rothbart reading, though wellattended, wasn’t profitable in terms of book sales — but to be an investment in developing a younger community of readers.
"This isn’t about selling books," Dich says. "It’s about creating an experience."
Who: Salvador Plascencia and Jack Pendarvis
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe
Note: Performance by Andrew Jackson Jihad to follow at Mac’s Broiler and Tap next door.