New St. Louis Store Lets You Color Karens, 'the Woke' and More

Really Big Coloring Books' storefront brings divisive offerings — and more — to a retail space

Sep 27, 2022 at 10:00 am
click to enlarge Two covers of coloring books. The one on the left is titled Woke and the other is Karens.
Really Big Coloring Books opened in a storefront in St. Louis.

A sometimes divisive coloring book operation has opened a retail storefront in St. Louis. 

This month, Really Big Coloring Books (9261 Dielman Industrial Drive, opened an approximately 2,000-square-foot retail space within its warehouse. Within the new storefront, the St. Louis based-company sells about 200 titles, primarily children's coloring books, as well as coloring utensils, notebooks and sketchpads.

Some of its coloring books are ones you just won't find anywhere else. Though the company primarily produces standard coloring books aimed at children — featuring animals, cities, dinosaurs, so on — it has made its name publishing almost any coloring book you could dream up.

"We're very inclusive, which means we'll publish a book for anyone," says Wayne Bell, publisher, founder and CEO of Really Big Coloring Books. "With the exception of narrow-minded hate groups."

If that seems like an odd disclaimer for a coloring book company, once you get eyeballs on its catalog, it makes a little more sense. Among its more, um, surprising offerings are Woke, President Obama, We Shall Never Forget 9/11, The Tea Party Coloring and Activity Book for Kids and Ted Cruz to the Future - Saves America.

Some of the more wild books came to be as commissions, with individuals or companies paying Really Big Coloring Books to make them. Bell says he always asks if the resulting product can also be purchased by the public. Some say no, but most say yes.

Though Really Big Coloring Books has drawn some attention — including from the RFT — for its merch, Bell says it's all part of a company ethos that focuses on diversity in content and in staffing, pointing to a Spanish-language division and the 23 languages in which the company publishes.

"A lot of people, they like to throw darts, if you know what I mean," he says. "But one of the things that makes us successful is the very accepting attitude that we've had throughout the history of this company."

click to enlarge Three coloring books of different cities.
Most of Really Big Coloring Books' merchandise is what you'd expect.

Not all of the company's off-the-beaten path offerings are political. Bell points to adult coloring books featuring mandalas, Ronnie Milsap, John Denver's estate and even a Karen-themed coloring book that features Karens calling 911, a Godzilla-like Karen shooting a laser out of her mouth and another one crouching, as if poised to ask for a manager.

"That's a really funny book," he says, breaking into chuckles. "That's what we call an adult coloring book, and the staff had a great time making that one."

Bell, who hails from the area close to New Madrid, Missouri, comes from a family in the printing business. He began producing coloring books in the early 1980s out of waste paper and realized it was a good business.

Things really got cracking with the birth of the internet as Bell registered multiple domain names — he says the company now owns 1,600 in countries around the world. He also claims to sell "millions and millions" of books yearly.

"That's a real clean cut nutshell how I got started making coloring books," he says. "They kind of found me, if you will."

Real Big Coloring Books' retail space is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday with intermittent hours on Saturdays.

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