New Bookstore Serves Up More Than Just Good Reads

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Alexis Bechman/Roundup

East West Exchange owner Chip Semrau and customer Andrew Henning proudly show off the new bookstore’s cafe.

A place for books, coffee, music, friends and yoga. If you have dreamed of such a space in Payson, your dream has just come true.

East West Exchange, an independent bookstore, opened April 5 in the former home of Bedrooms and More, 100 N. Tonto St., adjacent to the Department of Economic Security office.

While its location is slightly off the beaten path, the journey is well worth the effort.

Owners Chip and Lisa Semrau explain their bookstore is more than just a place for new and used books; it is a gathering place for the whole community.

The large retail space, broken into a bookstore, coffee shop, yoga studio and gift shop holds a variety of events. From book clubs to crochet clubs to live music and philosophical discussion groups, Chip said they are open to holding whatever events the community asks for.

Customers have “an opportunity to explore anything from Tai Chi to folk music” here, Chip said.

There are already plans to hold yoga, meditation, pilates, Zumba and other classes in a large room off the bookstore.

At East West Exchange’s former location in Chandler, dozens of people meet regularly for Socrates Café, an informal group to discuss edgy issues and Chip said he would like to see that start up in Payson.

Besides classes and coffee, the bookstore also offers a wide selection of books. More than 6,000 titles cover everything from fiction, non-fiction, history, politics, travel, cooking, self-help, spirituality, philosophy and nutrition.

While new age products and books are offered, Chip said the bookstore is a “healthy balance of east and west.”

“We are not promoting a particular doctrine or religion,” he said.

East West Exchange originally opened two-and-a-half years ago in the Valley. While the shop collected a loyal following of patrons, road construction and competing bookstores convinced the Semraus to relocate their business to a place where it could flourish.

Since Payson did not have a bookstore and the Semraus knew the area well, they decided now was the time to move.

“We saw it as an opportunity,” Chip said. Working with the landlord, the Semraus began remodeling in February. Chip said he is thankful for the town and counties cooperation with the remodel.

So far, the move is paying off. When the Roundup visited the bookstore on Wednesday, just three days after opening, customer traffic was higher than in the Valley, Chip said.

With so many customers, the bookstore desperately needs to hire, preferably those with barista or coffee experience.

The bookstore’s first employee, Monte McCord said when he heard a bookstore was coming to town, he drove to the Valley and requested a job from the Semraus personally.

“I love books and when I saw in the paper they were building a bookstore, I thought ‘now we are talking,’” McCord said.

East West Exchange is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (928) 468-2435 or visit www.ew-exchange.com.

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