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Subterranean Books to expand space with move this weekend

Subterranean Books to expand space with move this weekend

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February 22, 2011--- Alex Weir adjusts books in the display window at Subterranean Books in the loop in University City. "I'm constantly changing the book display," he said. "We get new releases all the time." 

After a year when so many businesses closed during the pandemic, Subterranean Books in St. Louis will expand.

Neighborhood shoppers, who helped keep the independent bookstore solvent, will find a more accessible and functional store starting Sunday, said owner Kelly von Plonski.

“We are so excited,” she said Monday by phone.

The store, which turns 21 years old in October, is only moving two doors down, into the space that formerly held another University City destination — fair-trade stalwart Plowsharing Crafts. The size, though, will grow from 1,100 square feet to 2,800 square feet.

Subterranean sent customers a newsletter Monday: “We are so sad that Plowsharing Crafts closed its doors but feel very fortunate to have fallen into this chance for expansion, and one that required very little investment to make a go of it.

“This new space is 2½ times bigger, which means we can properly staff ourselves in the age of Covid, we can safely allow more folks in the door (while still keeping in place all our safety protocols), and we can flesh out and expand our book selections to be even more wonderful and exciting than what you have come to expect from us.”

Subterranean Books, which has had limited store hours, will close Friday for the move. Von Plonski says it will be relatively easy, with one staff member at the current store packing boxes and another staff member in the new space unpacking and shelving. A third person will transfer boxes to the new site, 6271 Delmar Boulevard.

Von Plonski expects the location to be open for regular business on Sunday. (Saturday customers can pick up orders but not shop in the store.)

When Plowsharing announced it was closing, von Plonski told her landlord, who rented space to both stores, that she was interested in moving into the larger location.

The new site will not have stairs, which have limited accessibility in the current space. It will also allow for more space between shelves; currently there is barely enough room for wheelchair-users to maneuver. Because of social distancing, the store would only allow five customers to shop at a time. The new space has room for 15.

In a post-COVID-19 future, von Plonski says she may be able to offer relaxing new seating, and she expects a bigger area for author events.

She did buy some modern, angled shelving that makes browsing easier. But overall, the new retail store required little in the way of renovation, she says.

And, depending on health concerns, the store may finally get to celebrate its two decades in business when it turns 21 in October.

Regular Subterranean Books hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily for in-store shopping and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily for curbside pick-ups.

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