Through Ken Gjemre’s eyes in 1973, the world was on a downhill spiral.

The Vietnam War was going on. The environment was getting bad. And he hated his job – selling things that people didn’t need and couldn’t afford.

“The country was torn up,” Gjemre says. “The old ways weren’t going to cut it.”

Gjemre decided to open a business built on philosophies that he hoped would counteract all the bad. The result was Half Price Books, which he started with his friend and neighbor Pat Anderson.

Half Price Books purchases used books and recordings then resells them. The first store was 1,000 square feet located at Lovers and Inwood. Gjemre says their first weekend in business, he knew they were onto something.

“All of a sudden I was able to give a different direction to my life,” Gjemre says. “I was saving things rather than destroying things. That was my intent.”

For his business efforts to save the environment, Gjemre was recently awarded the Ken Gjemre Award for Environmental Excellence in Business by the Coalition for the Earth’s Environmental of Dallas. The award was named after Gjemre because of all his environmental efforts, such as recycling books, donating trees to neighborhood organizations and helping find CEED.

“We do everything we can to help other people do things together,” Gjemre says. “I’ve done two good things in my life. One was start Half Price Books. The other was to start CEED.”

Today there are 49 Half Price Books nationwide. Number 50 and 51 will open later this year.

From the beginning, Gjemre says they had management practices – profit sharing and participatory management – that are just now being picked-up by mainstream America business.

Because of the management structure, when Gjemre had a stroke four years ago he says the business continued operating with no problems.

“It (Half Price Books) is the people in the organization,” Gjemre says. “I’m just the figurehead.”

Gjemre moved from the neighborhood to Austin about a year ago for a romantic interest, he says. But he continues to serve as chair of the board for the business, frequently coming to Dallas. Anderson still lives in the neighborhood.

“I’m trying to do what I can, where I can, when I can for the environment and peace and justice,” Gjemre says. “My business was the same agenda. Saving books was just a step away from saving the planet.”

News & Notes

ELECTED AND HIRED: R.F. Sanford, Jr. was recently elected as chair of the board of directors of Swiss Avenue Bank. He is president of Gilbert X-Ray Company of Texas. Kurt Poetschke was recently hired as vice president/loan officer for the bank. He brings eight years of banking experience to Swiss Avenue.

TOP PRODUCER: Neighborhood resident Susan Howard was recently honored by Ebby Halliday, REALTORS as a top producer for the year. Howard works out of the Northeast Ebby Halliday office in Lake Highlands.

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