Published March 25th, 2022 at 11:00 AM
Flagship Books recently completed a remarkable transition from selling out of a shipping container in North Kansas City’s Iron District to a storefront on Strawberry Hill in Kansas City, Kansas.
Now, the only independent bookstore in KCK is making moves to connect with its surrounding community. On Saturday, Flagship is hosting a book reading and signing featuring Hunter Hawkins and Matthew Hawkins, the author and illustrator of a new children’s book, “Sydney.” The event begins at 1 p.m.
Brothers Joel and Ty Melgren officially opened Flagship’s new storefront at 600 Ohio Ave. on Feb. 12. Since then, the store has quickly become a haven for book lovers from Strawberry Hill and beyond.
Taking a step recently into Flagship Books felt like a breath of fresh air. Walls were filled with books. Joel Melgren warmly greeted customers.
The Melgren brothers founded Flagship Books in March 2021, beginning in a shipping container in the Iron District in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Melgren’s have managed to grow their business even in the face of competition from the likes of Amazon and an ongoing pandemic.
It hasn’t been easy. The number of independent bookstores declined from 2,524 in 2019 to 2,100 in 2020, according to statistics compiled by The Independent Bookseller. Bookstore sales, meanwhile, declined from $8.8 billion to $6.5 billion during the 2019-20 period, before surging to $9.1 billion in 2021.
Despite its humble beginnings in a shipping container in North Kansas City, Flagship Books exceeded expectations, prompting the Melgren’s to search for a permanent space. With the recent move there has been opportunity to expand the book selection and more space for literary gatherings.
Costumers seemed pleased with the new store. The business’s Facebook page raves with positive experiences like: “As I was headed home today, I stopped into the new bookshop on Strawberry Hill Flagship Books. Picked up three books. Two of which were currently in my Amazon wishlist. They have a really wonderful selection of used and new books. Totally worth a visit!” wrote Jen Wewers.
Events such as Saturday’s book signing shows Flagship Books is bringing new life to Strawberry Hill.
Leah Taylor is a reporting intern with Flatland who is attending the University of Missouri-Kansas City.