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Community steps up to keep unique North Kansas City bookstore going

Posted at 10:50 PM, Aug 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-29 07:07:10-04

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Some in the North Kansas City community are rallying to help a local bookstore begin a new chapter as it searches for a new home.

Steel's Used Books on East 18th Avenue near Swift Avenue has been a neighborhood mainstay.

Owner David Steel's Christian bookstore has come a long way from its humble beginnings on Independence Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri.

That version of the store burned to the ground in 1999, but Steel was undeterred.

"I'd like to be angry I guess, but where do I put that energy," he said at the time. "I don't have any place to direct it, so I'm going to direct it at rebuilding."

That resilient spirit led him to a new storefront in North Kansas City.

"What we've been trying to bring to North Kansas City is the community, the poetry and the art," Steel said Wednesday.

But a recent change in the property's ownership is forcing Steel to move again.

"They're renovating the buildings and so we have to leave, which is just part of the deal," he said.

The transition hasn't been smooth.

"Instead of letting us move gracefully, they ripped out the roof and moved tar dust and stuff all over my Persian rug," Steel said.

The new owner, Chuck Cuda of Opes Commercial Real Estate, told 41 Action News he had to upgrade the HVAC system and fix some of the code violations a fire inspector discovered.

When he learned of the mess crews made in Steel's business, Cuda had the contractor clean it up, but it still leaves Steel scrambling to find a new home.

"A small space while we figure out how to store 25,000 volumes long enough to find a place that's big enough to get it done," Steel said of his immediate hopes for a new location.

Enter Max Jolley, who wants to help Steel out.

"When we lose these pillars of the community, I just hate to see that happen, so I tried to help where I could," Jolley said.

He set up a GoFundMe to raise funds for Steel's Used Books' next chapter.

"It's just a completely unique experience," Jolley said. "You walk in, it's not really well organized. It's like you're kind of searching for lost treasure, and I find all kinds of unique things that I could not and would have not expected to find anywhere else."

Steel's Used Books will close Sept. 30.