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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Macklind Business District: tackling the challenges of running a local, independent business together

The Macklind Business District is not especially attractive. It can't claim the grandeur of South Grand, nor the gritty urbanity of Cherokee, nor the opulence of Euclid. Most of the businesses along the stretch are housed by urban, but understated one-story commercial buildings.

But make no mistake. There's something very special about Macklind after all.

Four of its businesses have decided to cooperatively take on a poor retail environment in St. Louis City. First, which four am I talking? Nope, not the delightful neighborhood hang out at Murdoch Perk, a much needed coffee shop in the heart of the middle class Southampton neighborhood. And no, not Macklind Avenue Deli, which is both a wonderful deli and something of an upscale liquor store.

The first is Manzo's Kitchen at 5346 Devonshire (at Macklind). It's a business that's been around for over 50 years selling Italian meats and groceries. Though it's housed in a small storefront, it's a nice neighborhood grocer/lunch spot/deli counter that's eminently walkable.

The second is Nature's Aglow II, next door to Manzo's at 5350 Devonshire. The first thing you'll notice about this place is the unbelievably friendly staff (ask for Darla!). The storefront, again, is small, but the place packs a surprising amount of gift store wallop. The centerpiece of the shop's offerings is organic candles. Sound too frou-frou for your much more dressed down significant other? Well, take one of their fact sheets about traditional candles and see if you ever buy one again! Apparently, burning a traditional candle in your house is like parking a semi in your house, while running, for a whole day! Even if you don't buy that, give these candles a chance. Next to the hundreds of candle scents are various sundries that make excellent birthday or anniversary surprises. Where else in the city of St. Louis can you do one-stop shopping without a car quite so easily?

The Big River Running Company storefront at Macklind and Nottingham. Photograph from their website, linked below.

The third is Big River Running Company at 5352 Devonshire. They're an athletic store that specializes in running/jogging gear. They'll even make you strut your stuff, observe your gait, and recommend the proper shoe. Right now, and until November 22, they're having "Store Wars", pitting their West County location against this, their walkable (or runnable?) South City store. Bring in five or more canned goods and earn a chance at a $100 Big River Running gift certificate. And please, help the South Side win this competition!

The fourth and final store is HomeEco, at 4611 Macklind. They call themselves "your Green General Store". That's pretty accurate. If you're one of the ecologically sensitive sort, the store carries everything from those now omnipresent energy efficient lightbulbs to recycle bins to "green" furniture to hemp-made pants. No kidding.

Why do I choose these four?

Cleverly, they have decided to promote one another's business. Purchase something at any one of the four stores. Secure a receipt. Take said receipt to one of the other stores. Receive 10 percent off your purchase.

I was delighted when I heard this. All four businesses are within a stone's throw of one another. All offer very different products and services. Instead of going it alone, they offer this simple cross promotion that I can tell you, from personal experience, goes a long way! Though Macklind is extremely walkable and pedestrian friendly (not a wide street, not hugely trafficked), it's easy for most St. Louisans to pull up in a car, get what they want, and leave. This promotion reminds people--hey, this is a business district! Stay around and shop for a while.

It's very difficult for small, local, independent businesses in St. Louis. Especially now, with a sunken economy, people are willing to take fewer spending "risks". A lot of times, a name brand wins out just because shoppers know what to expect, or can more easily secure a parking spot, or both. It's this simple kind of cooperation, this cross promotion, that will help to cushion these four very special businesses from the fate that has befallen so many of their less innovative predecessors--shuttering.

Please, support the Macklind Business District and take advantage of this small but important promotion. Local and unique retail needs you! Remember, more of your dollar will stay in the St. Louis economy.

Love the place you live? Invest in the place you live!


Brian said...

Big River is an awesome store. Its owners are some of the most respected members of the local running community and they hold lots of group runs, races and other events.
For some reason, there are tons of running stores in West County/Chesterfield, but there hasn't been one in the city, so these guys have filled a big void.
Even for people who aren't serious runners, it's a great place to pick up apparel, shoes and other cool stuff. Why go to Sports Authority, Dick's or any of those other places when Big River is right there in the neighborhood?

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