Let it be known that Subterranean Books may be in mortal danger, but it's not going to lay down and die, no sirree. Instead, it's fighting back by forming a superfriends-like coalition with its fellow indie bookstores, the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance.
The Alliance was formed one fateful Tuesday evening (last Tuesday evening, to be precise) over dinner at Pi in the Central West End. Kelly von Plonski of Subterranean, Nikki Furrer of Pudd'nhead Books, Jay Steele of Left Bank Books and Vicki Ervin of Main Street Books in St. Charles all decided to work together to raise the collective profile of St. Louis' independent bookstores. They would produce a map of independent bookstores to be distributed with other tourist information, set up a website listing all the goings-on at bookstores around town and local bestsellers and plan mega-events together.
They also decided to invite every other independent bookstore in St. Louis, both new and used, to take part. So far, several other stores, including Big Sleep Books, Dunaway Books and Hammond's Antiques & Books have agreed to join in.
As the Alliance says in its mission statement, its goal is
to provide St. Louis with a wide variety of independent bookstores, each specializing in their own passion for books, staffed by expert booksellers and stocked with the most amazing books; to support the creative and literary efforts in our city; to share our love of knowledge and storytelling; to not only keep up with the times, but stay ahead of the curve so that our customers get the best service, the best events, and books that fill their souls.
So far the Alliance has several plans in the works, starting with an e-reader "petting zoo" at Left Bank on Thursday, March 24, and a St. Louis Indie Bookstore Cruise on Saturday, May 7, which will take a coach bus full of shoppers on a tour of Alliance stores.
The Alliance has already attracted a large number of supporters on its Facebook page, some of whom have pledged to help out in their own way. The fine folks behind the music blog I Went To A Show (incidentally, winner of an RFT St. Louis Web Award), for instance, have promised to give a free CD of music by local bands to anyone who purchases a book at a local indie store today, February 17. Send a Twitter direct message to @iwtas or an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org telling them what you bought, where you bought it and the address they should send the CD to.
"We're always impressed by the knowledge, caring attitude, and integrity displayed by many local businesses," explains I Went To A Show's Jess Luther. "Independent bookstores here in town are prime examples of what makes our St. Louis community stronger. When we saw that the store owners got together and formed a St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance, we were inspired to contribute something from our camp that might encourage people to stop by the stores on a day that they might otherwise have not.
"When you buy an album from a local band," she continues, "you're doing more than just purchasing music. Listening local is a testament to the reemerging idea of St. Louis as a city that creates, that grows, and that works together. The same goes for local businesses, be it bookstores, grocery stores, or record stores."