NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The owner of an independent bookstore in the Northland is being pushed out from his store, and he partly blames gentrification for it.
Steel’s Used Books has been in the Kansas City area for 30 years, with 20 of those years spent at the store’s current location on East 18th Avenue in North Kansas City.
“It’s a museum, an archive,” owner David Steel said about the selection at his store. “[There are all kinds of books], spirituality, history, philosophy, psychology, the arts, music, poetry.”
Steel estimates he has more than 60,000 used books at his store. The 57-year-old said his focus has always been to stock books customers can’t find anywhere else.
“This is organic. This is real time,” he said. “This is stuff, people have history. They have read these. They hands-on, notes in their books. This is all history in real time.”
Steel said the store has always been about offering a personal touch with community at the center of it all.
“I want people to come in and read, poetry and talk and talk, discuss politics, religion, theology, as long as you’re polite,” he said.
Stacks once lined with books now sit empty. A lot of the books have been packed away into boxes, some nearly touching the ceiling of the store.
“Why did I move here? Because I liked the vibe,” Steel said, “because it had more of a casual atmosphere.”
Steel said he doesn’t want to leave, but the new owners of his building have given him until Sept. 30 to move out. He said he wasn’t offered the option to stay.
“What I’m afraid of is that the new boss, and the people that are coming in are going to go more shopping center or corporate, and it’s not going to have the same vibe,” he said.
“There’s been a lot of gentrification in the neighborhood,” Max Jolley, a local author, said about the area.
Jolley started a GoFundMe campaign to help the owner of Steel’s Used Books — a store he considers to be a “pillar of the community. He’s trying to raise at least $3,000.
“That’s give us enough money to find a small location where he can keep doing business for a few months and trade and buy and sell, and I hope it will give him enough time to find a real permanent location,” Jolley said.
Steel is grateful for Jolley’s efforts. He said even if they can’t raise the money, he’s not giving up on his business.
“No, I’m not going to quit,” Steel said. “Why would I do that? There’s nothing else like this anywhere and we’re taking our feast someplace.”
Steel said he’s looking at other locations for his store, but he doesn’t want to open up shop just anywhere.