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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Innovative, neighborhood-based services will make St. Louis more livable

St. Louis is lucky to be seeing the opening of a couple of new businesses that could really, collectively, change the face of the city.

First, SweetArt From-Scratch Bakeshop and Art Studio, in Shaw. Cbabi Bayoc, a local artist, has teamed up with none other than his own wife, Reine, to produce a lethal combination of cookie and canvass. I am sure Garden-goers and Shaw-ites will be duly pleased.

Below, a Cbabi painting.

Second, in DeBaliviere Place, Velocity Cafe and Cyclery. Do you feel Metrolink doesn't take you where you need to go? With this new part eatery, part bike rental shop, you can exit at the Forest Park Station and trade two feet for two wheels--and dine before you do. I'm told that the restaurant will use, quite fittingly, recycled bicycles as decor. A bike rental at the doorstep to one of the nation's largest urban parks and within a stone's throw of the Delmar Loop? It seems a no-brainer, but Velocity is the first. Since their website is a bit lacking at the moment, here are the updates from UrbanSTL.

Third, in Old North St. Louis, the Urban Studio Cafe. A coffee shop in up-and-coming Old North? That's good enough news in and of itself. But Starbucks-wannabe (is that even appropriate to say anymore, given that company's recent decline?) Urban Studio is not. Says founder Phil Valko, "The cafe seeks to foster a sense of community and creativity while providing a quality cup of joe. Revenue generated by the cafe will go towards funding future art programs for youth in the area." Think non-profit plus coffee shop. Nice. Oh, also, since we're on the topic of bikes, at the future Urban Studio Cafe, you can ride a bicycle to blend your own smoothie. Sounds like a nice, healthy excuse to eat some sweets. See the picture below.

So, if you're depressed that none of the above are open yet, I would highly recommend the Sci-Fi Lounge in Skinker-DeBaliviere. It has limited hours (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8pm to Midnight), but it's worth the trip on either of those nights. It's a very surreal place that kind of reminds me of New Orleans: meaning, there's not an ounce of corporate-ness in between its narrow walls. What is there sort of defies description--multiple stations to play a quick game of Nintendo 64 Mario Kart, PacMan, whathaveyou, plus the gangway between its own building and the one next door a sculpture garden of sorts dubbed "Robot Alley." Just check it out if you haven't yet.

We cannot fail to mention Cherokee Station's coming addition--Foam. It's a coffeehouse that serves alcohol that's going to brew both. A town can never have enough breweries, and especially ones that serve espresso. The myspace page linked above notes that Foam has aspirations to grow into a "contemporary cultural center". Sounds about right. Benton Park West/Cherokee Station needs it.

Finally, I'm excited about Carondelet's "The Wedge". PictureThisSTL has more details, describing the venue at Bates and Virginia as a "rock 'n' roll pizza bar." I have to admit something nerdy here: I'm obsessed with odd-shaped city blocks, and especially when they have odd-shaped buildings on them. In grid-happy St. Louis, there's not too many pie slices going on, and when they occur, they're sadly given over too often to a gas station or a vacant lot. Well, the Wedge, as evidenced by its name, proudly defies this trend. Look for an art-deco bar on street-level, and a pizzeria/rock music venue on the second floor.

Why do I pull out these examples? They all buck the idea of just opening something that you'd expect, since they all cross genres and aren't easily defined. They're obviously being crafted by passionate folks who want to bring St. Louis something it's not seen yet. Innovative small businesses like this improve the quality of life in a city, informing residents and visitors alike that there is something unique and memorable to this place.


Unknown said...

Absolutely right on! Recently we opened Urban Eats Cafe, a new start-up in South City on Meramec and Virginia; we want to build a successful small business that makes a tangible difference in our community, providing not only unique, quality experience but also serving as a catalyst for positive change...


Matt M. said...

Okay, so this is going to sound totally made up, but I was absolutely meaning to include you guys. I made a list of businesses to post about earlier in the week, and you guys were on it, but I lost it and had to rely on a faulty memory. I feel awful! And that's totally, totally a true story. Maybe I owe you a full post now. :) -Matt

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