UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- News 4 first reported on the St. Louis bookstore "Eye See Me" a year ago. It's a bookstore that sells books with main characters of diverse backgrounds, so that all children can identify with the story. 

This small business started out very small, in a two room space in University City off Olive Blvd. However, a year ago, a big business came into St. Louis and took them under their wing.

Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg came to St. Louis in January 2018 to launch Facebook Community Boost. The social media company selected 10 St. Louis companies to meet with exclusively, including "Eye See Me."

Since this meeting, the co-owners of Eye See Me, Jeffrey and Pamela Blair, have become more proficient in using Facebook as a marketing tool to promote their business.

In a year, they've seen so much growth in their business, they doubled in size and moved into a new building with two classrooms, an adult/high school reading and study room and a cafe. 

The new bookstore and multi-use space had it's grand opening on  February 23. The Blairs gave News 4 a tour of the new space. They said in their old space they had a little over 1,000 books in stock, but "Now we can probably stock maybe 2,500 books," said Pamela Blair.

The adult/high school room is a new addition. Before, they primarily focused on a child audience but they wanted to open their bookstore up to all ages.

The adult/high school room will have tables and comfy chairs for studying and the Blairs say they will be hosting open mic nights, poetry readings and author visits in the room as well. 

Earlier in February, Jeffrey and Pamela were invited to Facebook headquarters for a small business summit.

"They sent us out to their headquarters in California and we got to meet Mark and Sheryl [Sandberg, Facebook COO], and attend some workshops, meet with some of the product people, talk about our experiences using some of their products and giving some of our insights," said Jeffrey Blair co-owner."That whole experience just really helped us really craft how we use Facebook to not just reach new customers but stay connected with our current customers."

By utilizing Facebook as Eye See Me's primary way to connect to their customers, they were able to expand their reach outside of St. Louis.

"We have people in New York and New Jersey, people from California, Detroit," said Jeffrey Blair.

The books are not just purchased in store, but they are also being gifted to the community. One of the places these books are going are the classrooms of the St. Louis Pubilc School District.

Shardea Gallion teaches 6th grade English at Carr Lane Middle School. 

"When they read that actually get to hear authentic language that they use, they actually get to hear descriptions of real black girls, with big lips and voluminous hips and curly hair, they get to hear those things celebrated for once," said Gallion.

Gallion says with "Eye See Me" books on the shelves in her classroom, her students, for the first time, look forward to reading. A few of Gallion's students share testimonies of the positive impact seeing themselves in books, can have on their confidence. 

"It makes me feel warm and it makes me feel very welcome into this classroom because it has a lot about my culture," McKenzie Hitchings, a sixth grader, said.

"If you’re thinking of the book and seeing it as yourself, doing the stuff they’re doing, it’s like you’re in their place. You’re doing what they’re doing," said sixth grader Miesha Robinson

The bookstore is not just for African-American children, it is also sells books for Hispanic, Asian and Muslim readers.

"If you just stay zeroed in one culture, you’re only getting have the story and you’re really losing out on a complex, beautiful world," said Jeffrey Blair. 

"Eye See Me" is open every day of the week, except Mondays. 

You can learn more about their upcoming author visits and open mic nights on their Facebook page.

Their new store is located at:

6951 Olive Blvd
University City, Missouri

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

News 4 Reporter

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