Brothers Joel and Ty Melgren started Flagship Books in the Iron District of North Kansas City last March. When they outgrew their shipping container setup, they decided it was time to find a permanent home for their business.
The Melgren brothers found an open space on Ohio Avenue in their Strawberry Hill neighborhood. “It’s good to have our own designated space, and now we’re in the neighborhood where we live—moving closer was an added bonus,” Ty says.
Ty studied English and taught English abroad in Turkey and Tunisia, and he’s always read a lot. Joel has a background in business. “Opening a bookstore was kind of a natural collaboration for us,” Ty says.
We talked to Ty and Joel about Flagship Books relocation, the Strawberry Hill community and their future plans for the bookstore.
How long have you two been a part of the Strawberry Hill community? We’ve been here for about a year and a half. There’s so much we like about the neighborhood. Even before the Iron District, we were hoping to find a spot in this neighborhood.
When we first moved into the neighborhood, this space [Flagship] was a local little deli, then it was empty for several months before we moved in. For a long time, this space was a barbershop.
We are excited to be a part of the neighborhood and add to what they already have going on here.
What sort of collaborations and events do you want to bring to Flagship now that it has a permanent home? We want to join existing events that are already happening in the neighborhood, like Artwalk, and we’d like to start some of our own traditions and events, too.
We’d like to do local author readings, eventually. We’ve got some book club ideas. A few people have reached out about existing book clubs wanting to do their monthly meetings here. We’d also like to maybe start our own book clubs eventually.
How do you determine which books to keep on the shelves? We’ve got new fiction and nonfiction, and then we rotate books on the tables. For ordering new books, we talk to people and follow social media book accounts. I keep an eye on new releases as well. It’s kind of a challenge to figure out both what I think is interesting and what is also popular. That overlaps often, but not always.
What sets Flagship apart from other bookstores? Like other independent bookstores, as opposed to a chain bookstore, we have the ability to carry what people who come in are interested in.
Whenever you’re curating a bookstore, your own personal taste automatically goes into the selection, and that gives a small, independent bookstore its own identity and charm.
We have a good selection of nonfiction graphic novels and that’s something kind of unique to us. We’re also kind of figuring out how to stock contemporary fantasy. We’ve got Dune and Lord of the Rings, but we also have newer fantasy books by women writers of color, like N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor.
If you’re looking for a particular book, we can help locate it, too. We place orders for people all the time. That’s how we get ideas on how to stock our shelves, actually—by listening to what people are asking for.
Tarahumaras Mexican Restaurant “Tarahumaras is a Mexican restaurant just a little up the street from us. It’s really good.”
The Mockingbird Lounge “Mockingbird is right over here, too. It’s a great bar, and it has a bunch of stuff going on.”
Kinship Coffee “They’re great. They brought in coffee and doughnuts to give away at our grand opening. It’s been fun to make friends and business connections around here.”