It's been a testament to the uniqueness of the CWE that two independent bookstores have survived in the age of Amazon and e-books. Sadly, one of them, Big Sleep Books, 239 N. Euclid, will close its doors at the end of June.
Proprietors Ed King, above, and Helen Simpson (not pictured), have found it difficult to compete with the new book-selling model, where internet presence is front and center. Their internet site is as quirky and old-school as the shop itself, which could serve as a Woody Allen movie set. Therein lies its charm.
The photograph above is from Big Sleep Book's website, which I featured in a March 2010 post. It shows the late Chris King and Peter Simpson, friends from St. Louis University High School who later became partners in the bookstore. They're pictured at a 1988 ribbon cutting with Cardinal players Willie McGee, Terry Pendleton, and Ozzie Smith. Chris King, an actor, performed in the heyday of Gaslight Square, and Peter Simpson, a poet, taught at SIUE. Helen Simpson, Peter's widow, and Ed King, Chris's son, have carried on the bookstore tradition for the past 27 years.
Housed in a tiny storefront with books stacked everywhere, Big Sleep is the kind of place where customers share views on the merits of favorite titles with each other. This often included international travelers staying at The Chase Park Plaza. Once I overheard Ed King sing the praises of a particular book saying: "It will make your socks roll up and down."
Big Sleep is where I heard the skinny on Gone Girl's author Gillian Flynn, and became an instant book critic (for the blog), when Helen Simpson handed me Ozark native Daniel Woodrell's "Winter's Bone," and said, "Read this!" If you've read the book, or seen the movie, you know what a gripping tale it is.
When I stopped in to research this story Sunday afternoon, a young woman stopped by looking for the latest James Patterson. Ed said he didn't have it and suggested she'd find it at Left Bank Books. That's how generous he is. He says he will really miss the neighbors, the neighborhood, and the store. There is no doubt Big Sleep Books will be missed by many, many loyal customers as well.
Until the store closes on June 30, all books are 50% off. Please stop in and purchase some books to show Ed and Helen how much you appreciate their contribution to this neighborhood.
Big Sleep Books, 239 N. Euclid, Mon. to Thurs. 11-6, Fri. & Sat. 11-8, Sun. 12-6, (314) 361-6100.