Rows upon rows of eclectic books line the shelves of the Loop’s Subterranean Books. As the only independent bookstore on the street, Subterranean Books provides a welcome oasis from the bustling surroundings of restaurants and shops.
The store recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, marking its longevity on the Loop. The decision to open on Delmar seemed obvious to owner Kelly von Plonski, who said, “I couldn’t conceive of it being anywhere other than the Loop. It’s such a great neighborhood with the University being here and the local community.”
Since its opening, Subterranean Books has seen many changes, most notably its decision to carry only new works rather than both new and used books. Instead of having to search through used books to create a well-rounded inventory, the staff now has the time to go through publishers’ catalogs and be more selective about the selection of new books they want to carry.
As staff member Alex Weir explained, a lot of effort goes into choosing the store’s stock. “It’s a lot of decision making and a combination of personal preference and guessing what customers might be interested in…and listening to our customers for feedback on what they want,” he said.
Subterranean Books has a small staff of five employees, who are all avid readers with a passion for different kinds of books. The staff prides itself on its breadth of knowledge on a variety of works. As von Plonski explained, “One of the requirements of working here is you have to be curious about things you don’t know about. If you’re interested in poetry, you also have to want to learn about something like crime books.”
The breadth of the store’s collection and the staff’s knowledge fosters an atmosphere where all readers are welcome. Members of the staff love interacting with customers and sharing book recommendations. As Weir said, “I had a really interesting conversation just earlier today with a Wash. U. student who’s in the writing program, and we had a nice long talk about different writers that we like. That’s just the best part of the job.”
While the main draw of any bookstore is its selection of books, Subterranean Books also hosts a variety of events for the community. The store has several book readings and signings that allow readers the opportunity to meet their favorite authors. One recent event was author Dan Wells’ reading/signing for his dark thriller “Mr. Murder” on Nov. 2.
The store also serves as a gallery for local artists. Currently, photographer Sara Roger is showing her collection “Women of India,” which includes inspirational photos of women she met during her six-month stay in India. The exhibits change periodically and add a unique touch to the store’s interior.
With its ever-evolving book collection and community offerings, Subterranean Books is truly a unique spot on the Loop. Von Plonski said it best: “What a bummer it would be to live in a neighborhood without a bookstore.”
Subterranean Books is located at 6275 Delmar Blvd. and can be found on the Web at http://store.subbooks.com.