By Cynthia Thuma
Even a village by the sea needs office supplies.
And so, since it began life as a book shop three-quarters of a century ago, Hand’s Office Supply, in the heart of Delray Beach, has endeavored to serve locals’ and visitors’ needs.
From cerulean blue art paint to custom stationery, from columnar pads to office chairs, it’s clear today that the store’s motto, “Hand’s has it,” is no exaggeration.
The Atlantic Avenue business — this year celebrating its 75th anniversary — sells office supplies and furniture, artists’ supplies and paints, and much more. The book section offers selected best-sellers, local authors and a selection of great beach reading. Party supplies are available in excess.
Then there are the items that almost defy categorization: bric-a-brac and wall décor, signs for pet lovers, no matter the pet. Beanie Babies and the perennial pink lawn flamingo are for sale, as are small lamps shaped like baseballs, soccer balls and footballs.
“It’s so not boring. We cater to what the town wants,” says Liz Hughes, who manages special events for the store, including its year-long 75th birthday celebration. “It’s a nutty store, Delray Beach 100 percent. It’s actually a lot of fun working here.”
That’s just the way the staff and customers at Hand’s like it, and have for generations.
Sometime in the late 1920s, Lauren Hand, a doctoral student in chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley, was summoned home to assist his family during a medical crisis. He ended up staying on, and served Delray Beach as its city clerk and treasurer.
In March 1928, Lon Burton, owner and founder of the Delray Beach News announced his retirement, and Hand, who loved to write, took the reins as its manager and editor.
He later opened the Delray Book Shop, although most people simply called it Hand’s. The store ultimately changed its name and has remained a downtown presence ever since. In 1964, Lonnie Cook Jr., son of Delray Beach’s former fire chief, purchased the store from Hand, and operated it until he retired. His son, David Cook, now runs the store.
Liz Hughes points out: “It’s in its third generation now, but only two families have owned it over the whole 75 years.”
Hughes used some family ties of her own to land a big name for the yearlong celebration. Suzy Welch, author of 10-10-10, decided to open her book tour in Delray Beach on May 2 at Hand’s, bringing her husband, business icon Jack Welch, with her. Suzy Welch is the former editor of the Harvard Business Review. “She’s my cousin,” Hughes says. “Her book is a self-help book, and it’s a really good one.”