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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Downtown Dutchtown's Vital Signs Improving

Just a few short years ago, when I worked as an intern at Dutchtown South Community Corporation, a humble coffee joint (Java Joe's) and a pair of small antique shops were about all that a once vibrant stretch of Meramec Street could claim. The one true anchor of the business district was Winkelmann's Drug, a pharmacy open since 1913 at the southwest corner of Meramec and Virginia. Java Joe's closed for good soon after I completed my internship. While I'm not 100 percent certain, I believe the antique shops are by appointment only, or have random hours otherwise. The street was clearly not at its best.

Today, the story of Meramec, and the overall outlook of the street, is much different. A dedicated group, the Downtown Dutchtown Business Association, or DT2, is working to attract businesses to the neighborhood commercial district. So too is recently elected 25th Ward alderman Shane Cohn.

The Java Joe's space, and, I believe, another short-lived coffee shop, gave way to Urban Eats, Dutchtown's best little cafe and hangout spot. Urban Eats is cozy and has an innovative concept: couture wraps and pizzas. Their food is made to order and exactly to your liking, from the type of bread on up. They also have a really nice retail shelf of Dutchtown and St. Louis-related items. Urban Eats must be given credit for infusing Downtown Dutchtown with the right energy level and a sense of creativity and community all at once.

Urban Eats
3301 Meramec

Twice Blessed Resale Shop, across the street from Urban Eats, is a not-for-profit store run by the folks behind Our Lady's Inn, which serves homeless women in the St. Louis region. The staff is friendly, its wares somewhere between free and dirt cheap, and its profits help keep the shelter afloat.

Twice Blessed Resale Shop
3302 Meramec

Another newcomer to Downtown Dutchtown is the Virginia House, an art gallery sheltered in a diminutive brick Dutchtown storefront that was vacant for quite a while.

UPDATE [5/21/10]: Reader Maude has informed this blog that the Virginia House is no longer an art gallery, but will soon be home to a boutique produce market, which will accept EBT and WIC! Awesome! Reader Dan tells us not to fret over Virginia House; they're looking to expand because their first two events were too big for their space! All around great news!

Virginia House
4219 Virginia
Facebook Page

Pre-renovation shot, from their Facebook page.

And post-renovation, shot in artsy Polaroid, also courtesy of the Virginia House Facebook page.

Here's a nice photo of the outdoor gallery space as well:

The newest kid on the block, though, is Refabulous, a consignment shop. Definitely worth a visit for its incredible prices and great selection of men and women's clothing, the owners are delightful as well!

3314 Meramec

I have a pretty trustworthy feeling that we'll see more movement on Meramec quite soon.


Maude said...

The Virginia House is no longer an art gallery. I recently bought it and I'm going to turn it into a boutique produce market -- EBT & WIC accepted. A new art gallery is opening on Grand, just North of the Feasting Fox. More happenings in Dutchtown, Stay tuned for details.

Matt M. said...

Great...thanks for the information! Sounds exciting! Congratulations to you.

I will update the post.

Unknown said...

Dutchtown is coming back quickly! The Virginia House Gallery is currently looking for a larger location due to the great success of the first two events. The new owner of the original location will be a fantastic anchor in the neighborhood and there will be many more joining our attempts to revitalize this area. More to come...

Elena said...

My husband and I moved into the apartment above what is now Refabulous Resale. We love the area so much that we bought a house just three blocks north of Meramec last September. I'm very excited about everything that is happening, and the people who make Dutchtown home are part of why we decided to make it a permenant home!

john w. said...

Watch for movement at 3309-11 as well. There may be an apartment above these two reopened storefront spaces as well.

Anonymous said...
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Danielle said...

So happy to see this post! I am moving into a house near Meramec and Grand next week!

Redheadzazzgirl said...

Hi Matt!
Just wanted to give you a quick update on the state of the 'hood.

Urban Eats Cafe is expanding in the next few weeks, doubling our floor space, opening it up into the Urban Arts Collective and adding a full Bar and Juice bar. The Conference room is expanding also, and will now accommodate 20 people easily, moving to the other side of the Urban Arts Collective.

So, no art events in April, while we are under construction.

Happy to report: so many other businesses looking to locate in our biz district! From art supply shops and tattoo parlors to photo studios and furniture refinishers. Two new resale shops opening as I write, in addition to The Collective, a shared work space at 3309 Meramec. One of our resale shops is doubling in size this month.

DT2 is also getting ready to publish our 2nd book on the neighborhood- Downtown Dutchtown: Changing Faces & Places.

Its a snapshot of our changing neighborhood, with an intro by historian NiNi Harris, about the past and present inhabitants. The book is based on a photo exhibit project with DT@, UMSL's Public Policy Research Center and Urban Eats Cafe.

All excellent signs of progress.

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