Columns > Published on April 17th, 2012

Indie Bookstore Spotlight: Prospero's, Kansas City, MO

ADDRESS: 1800 West 39th St., Kansas City, MO, 64111

HOURS: Mon - Sat: 10:30 am - 10:00 pm, Sun: 10:30 am - 6:00 pm

ON THE WEB: Website, Facebook

HISTORY: Prospero’s Books opened its doors on November 19, 1997, and was originally established by W.E. (Will) Leatham and John Condra. In 1999, Mr. Condra left and was replaced by Tom Wayne who would use his experience in real estate to broker the deal for the current building. That would take place in 2002 when Prospero’s moved and expanded, crossing 39th Street from its original location. During the renovation, the retail space and building were vastly restored and modernized, including a dramatic 4.5 foot curved staircase to the basement and reopening all the original windows. Prospero's currently fills two floors of the historic, 120-year-old Johnson Hardware building. Its design seamlessly melds a sense of late 1800s wild-wild west with a modern urban chic.  Nowhere else in town can the sight-seer find classic bookstore fare like rolling library ladders and a beautifully restored turn-of-the-century pressed tin ceiling. Prospero's currently serves as a literary staple in the city, not only with its selection of books and albums, but it's literary and live events.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Located in 'restaurant row' on West 39th Street, Prospero's is surrounded by local eateries, boutiques, and small bars. A Sunday afternoon could easily be spent browsing books, dining, and having drinks on any of the numerous patios. Live musicians often set up shop on one of the corners, so there's usually drums or acoustic guitar riffs muting the traffic. At night, typically on the weekends, local owners put on events of art, literature, and music. There's always something to do or see in this part of town.

WHY IT'S AWESOME: Prospero's makes you remember why the independent bookstore is so important. It's not just about selling books to them--it's about building the literary community and showcasing the artistic side of the city. Mr. Leatham knows his authors, both the ones on his dusty shelves and the local scribes putting pen to paper, trying to make it in the literary world. Inquire about an event or doing a live reading and more the likely he'll say to you, "I'm always willing to give new authors a chance." Kansas City is not the easiest place to get a reading gig, but authors know that they can always go to Prospero's and have their voice heard. 

It is a literary cornerstone, but it's also one of the preferred hangout spots for local artisans who are looking for good a conversation over an afternoon beer. The relaxed nature of Prospero's extends throughout the entire neighborhood, a sort of small town feel. This is more apparent on the weekends when Prospero's holds one of their literary or musical events, which always seem to turn into late night conversations over drinks at the local bar. 

The store carries of wide selection: from mainstream fiction to the occult, but locals know that you don't come to Prospero's for something specific. You come to wander, browse, and take a chance on something new. Give the staff a chance to add to that literary palette of yours.

THE VERDICT: Prospero's should be the destination for anyone in the city looking for the indie bookstore experience. It's too easy to kill a few hours just looking around and chatting with the staff.  Also, the events at Prospero's never disappoint.

About the author

Brandon Tietz is the author of Out of Touch and Good Sex, Great Prayers. His short stories have been widely published, appearing in Warmed and Bound, Amsterdamned If You Do, Spark (vol. II), and Burnt Tongues, the Chuck Palahniuk anthology. Visit him at

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