Books are written to help readers change their perspective on life, to go after their dreams, and to help shape us all to become the people we are going to ultimately become someday. They are written to help us learn about the past, give us insight to current events, and to prepare us for the future. When children are given a book, they are given a key to another world that will help expand their mind and start to show them what their interests are. And what better place to exercise their creativity than by that of a bookstore.

Seventeen years ago, a store moved to the Ahwatukee community that would forever leave its mark on the families that lived and grew here.

That store is the Ahwatukee Barnes & Noble, the last bookstore there was in our community.

The Ahwatukee Barnes & Noble has been the hangout spot for Ahwatukee students for almost two decades now. It has been seen as a positive after-school, Friday night, and weekend hangout spot for all ages. The store has hosted author signings over the years and has always supported local authors and charities. Book fairs have even been hosted to provide donations of books to local charities. Last year alone, more than 1,500 books were donated with the help of the Ahwatukee community to the local children’s hospital. Countless book groups, art groups, painting groups, and even chess groups have also met at the store over the years, not forgetting the daily coffee drinkers that would pass through on their way to work. It’s not just about the groups though as deeper events have happened there such as new friendships were created here, husbands and wives first met there, children first learned how to read there, old friendships were rekindled there, as well as people have been proposed to there.

Jennifer Huizar-Acevedo recalled a very special memory at the store: “My husband and I had our first date here. While waiting for our movie to start, we were reading through ‘Dating for Dummies.’”

Ahwatukee residents were shocked when they heard the news that the store location was closing its doors on Aug. 2.

“We were devastated when we found out. All three of my daughters have spent time at this store especially my youngest, as we always went there quite often on the weekends to browse and hang out” said Joan Quinn Roth. “It was our comfort store of Ahwatukee. And Ahwatukee will not be the same without it.”

Rhonda Tubbs McKearney remembers, “I fell in love with one of my favorite authors there, Mary Higgins Clark. I would go there, sit on the floor in the mystery section and page through all her different books before deciding which one to buy. It was such a calming world—taking your time to skim through the pages of a book prior to buying. I would spend hours there!”

Located in the heart of many Ahwatukee schools, this was one of the most popular hangout spots for students. Not only would they form study groups there, but this was the place to hang out on a Friday night, especially when groups of friends would be waiting for a movie to start.

Elyna Feist said, “I remember we used to all go there lots of times after school and on Friday and Saturday nights. It would be a movie and then Barnes & Noble. We used to meet everyone there since it was the ‘go to’ place each time someone would want to meet up.”

It wasn’t just about grabbing a Starbucks before catching the latest flick next door, or just about hanging out with pals on a Saturday night, but it was also about the spirit of the employees that worked there that made this store enjoyable to visit.

“What I’ll miss the most is the opportunity to serve the Ahwatukee community. The interaction with customers, knowing the books, the excitement of the up and coming authors — you can only find that out through the feedback from the customers,” said store manager Carole Cox.

I myself have spent countless hours in this store location over the years just browsing through books, reading on their comfy chairs, and often running into old friends while shopping there. I always wanted to give back to the store by getting a book published and seeing it on their shelves and even doing author readings to help children out some day. This was my favorite store and favorite location at that.

Chris Putman said, “I never thought this location would go out of business. I have so many good memories of going there before a movie and discovering a new author of a new series while I was growing up. I always hoped I could take my kids there and have the store do the same for them. Now I won’t be able to.”

There are a few employees who have decided to continue working for Barnes & Noble at the Dana Park, San Tan, Tempe, and Gilbert locations as the average employee at the Ahwatukee Barnes & Noble worked there for about 10 years. That says something about the special people who worked at this location.

“We hope the Ahwatukee community will continue to show patronage to our other Barnes & Noble locations as they are happy to serve them now. We want to thank the Ahwatukee community for their patronage over the years and for all of the support they are giving to us now.”

Although we are sad to see the store location close its doors, we just want to thank the employees of the Barnes & Noble location in Ahwatukee for their service to the community over the years. Thanks for making it a great place to hang out at, meet new people and old friends at, and overall, thanks for the memories and for being a special part of our lives.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Michelle “Mikey” Arana is a 2003 graduate of Mountain Pointe High School.

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