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Larger Downtown Grocery Store Opens Today

August 11, 2009 Downtown, Retail 31 Comments

Today a grocery store 3 times the size of the one we’ve had for the last 5 years opens.  Culinaria opens at 9th & Olive in the ground floor of the 9th Street Garage on the site of the historic marble-clad Century Building.

Culinaria is a small format store by local chain Schnuck’s.  A typical new Schnuck’s is 63,000 square feet whereas Culinaria is a third that size at 20,000SF.  Still that is a far cry larger than the 6,500SF City Grocers that opened in October 2004.  We all owe developer Craig Heller thanks for stepping into grocery business when nobody, including Schnuck’s, would locate downtown.

The shelves are stocked and tables are set up on the sidewalk. 15 minute parking is allowed on 9th in front of the store – no meters yet.  Additional parking is available in the garage which is entered from Olive.

I’ve not been inside yet but from the outside I have some complaints.

A new “dish rack” bike rack has been added to the public sidewalk.  The worst possible rack choice.  Once used the bikes will project into the walking path of the sidewalk.  As I’ve mentioned before, with this type of rack you can only secure one wheel but not the frame.  With so many bikes having quick release hubs it is easy for a thief to leave the wheel and take the rest of the bike.  I doubt this rack will get much use — a good thing because the sidewalk won’t be blocked. The rack type that should have been selected is the inverted-U:

16th & Washington Ave

This type of rack places bikes parallel, rather than perpendicular to, pedestrians on the sidewalk.   The rack that was installed on 9th should never have gotten city approval.

The store entrance is not very appealing.  This door takes you to the elevators to go up into the parking garage.  Past the elevators is an automatic door for entering Culinaria.  The problem for me in my wheelchair and for parents pushing strollers is the door lacks an electric assist.  The button-activated door at City Grocers has been very handy.  I’ll need to hug the ash tray to get where I can open this door.  Hopefully they will add an opener to this door soon.

Store hours are to be 6am to 10pm daily.  I just hope they don’t cut back on those hours in the future. I’ll appreciate the extra hour in the evening — City Grocers has always closed at 9pm.

City Grocers, at 10th & Olive, is retooling and becoming City Gourmet.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "31 comments" on this Article:

  1. John Daly says:

    I believe folks will be able to shop during the lunch hour and then come back and pick up their groceries after work. If that’s the case, I’ll probably take advantage of that perk. This might be a good topic for tonights show.

    Nothing like a good ash tray to welcome people to a brand new grocery store 🙂

  2. U says:

    You asked for an inverted U bike rack. Haven’t you noticed that the bike rack they installed has two inverted U’s? 🙂

  3. Yes! Now were a real City!

  4. Jimmy Z says:

    At least they added a bike rack (poorly designed as it may be) – how many other new (or old) businesses downtown have done the same?! As for the hours, the “ball’s in your court” – you and other downtown residents – use it or lose it! And finally, I know this site is meant to be critical, but let’s celebrate the not-so-small positive step this represents before we start nitpicking it to death – any new concept will need fine tuning before all the kinks get worked out. (Most restaurant reviewers wait a couple of months to review any new operation, for the same reasons.)

  5. W Kruse says:

    Funny you mention the bike racks. I just walked past them, and thought the exact same thing. There was already a bike there, but not using the rack, it was up against a light pole instead.

  6. W Kruse says:

    I also have to give Schnuck’s a shout out for their customer service. I sent them an email yesterday, thanking them for opening a small store in downtown. 30 minutes later I received a call from their office to get my opinions. Now if I could just get AT&T to do that when I need something.

  7. Mark Groth says:

    If successful, I wonder if Schnucks would consider these smaller stores in other neighborhood in the city. This seems like a much nicer experience than the typical Schnucks layout. Can’t wait to give it a try.

  8. W Kruse says:

    There is a perfect spot for one in dogtown. The lower level of the new empty building they built on the corner of Tamm and Clayton.

  9. Craig says:


    I don’t think there is a combination of tax incentives available in any other parts of the city that would allow Schnucks to open a similar store. This store wouldn’t exist without significant public subsidies.

  10. G-Man says:

    Bravo, Jimmy Z.

  11. St. Louis Neighbor says:

    Craig – that’s an interesting comment. What incentive advantages does downtown have over other city neighborhoods? Why not offer these in other neighborhoods?

  12. Craig says:

    New Markets Tax Credits and TIF got Schnucks done. Both are handed out for political reasons. Doubtful another corner outside of downtown would be deemed so important so as to use these incentives to build a mini-Schnucks.

  13. St. Louis Neighbor says:

    Old North St. Louis used New Markets Tax Credits for the 14th Street Mall redevelopment and lots of neighborhoods use TIF.

  14. Craig says:

    Neighbor, I am very aware that TIF is used throughout the city and that New Markets Tax Credits are available in other parts of the city as well. The point is that there is not likely to be any other point in the city not served by Schnucks where these financing tools or any other combination of financing tools are available and where Schnucks would want to use to build another mini-grocery store.

  15. Straight From the City says:

    Yes the bike rack is not the greatest. However this is a very lame thing to complain about if you ask me. I am quite sure that I ride more than most people that read this great blog, and I can say we are lucky to have anything to lock our bikes up to. This design is the most cost effective. You can lock your frame and wheel up to this rack if you have the know how, and right lock. If you are really concerned about your bike I suggest you use two locks, one strong one for the frame, and another cheap one (I suggest a gun lock they give out at police departments, I have one and it works great) to lock your front wheel to your frame.

    Almost all locks are not theft proof. A good crook can break/pick any lock. The main purpose of a lock is to provide a safety net to slow a crook down.

    My 2 Cents.

    [slp — I run into enough obstacles on our sidewalks I don’t need bikes being secured perpendicular to the path. These racks, now up to four, will really hold only two bikes. The inverted-U rack is far more cost effective. The city needs provide the right type of bike parking on public sidewalks. Short of providing the bike parking, they need guidelines on how to place bike parking in the public right of way.]

  16. dweebe says:

    I believe that the Schnucks proposed in West County at the intersection of Clarkson and Kehrs Mill to be be about half the size of the normal stores. It won’t be a Culinaria though, but I bet the downtown store will be used as a template.

    Given how mad-house crazy the Richmond Heights store can get, a Culinaria could work in Maplewood or the Delmar Loop.

    Plus outside of St. Louis there are a few other markets that Schnucks is in and a Culinaria could work:
    -the Champaign/Urbana area has two Schnucks Express that could be rebranded.
    -downtown Memphis
    -downtown Springfield Illinois
    -Columbia Missouri by the Mizzou campus

  17. a.torch says:

    Schnucks has always played dirty politics, from buying and holding hostage 3 grocery store buildings vacant so no other stores could move in (South city/Affton) up to the recent debacle involving the Century building (how soon you forget, eh?) I will never go in the downtown Schnucks, and wish them no luck. There used to be alot of small neighborhood stores run by Schnucks and they closed almost all of them, sorry Mark, this is their M.O.

  18. Filly Cheese says:

    I will shop exclusively at the DT Schnucks. So a.torch, I will cancel you out.

  19. prudentdriver says:

    “I run into enough obstacles on our sidewalks I don’t need bikes being secured perpendicular to the path.”

    So, the question is, when the rack is full of bikes, do you still get the four feet of sidewalk width required by the ADA?

    [slp — having a minimum sidewalk width where when you meet someone on the sidewalk one must stop to let the other pass is far from ideal. A better option exists that doesn’t cut our sidewalks down to the bare minimum.]

  20. Margie says:

    Schnucks (Desco) tore down the National Register-listed Century Building, and they played dirty political pool to do it. There is no honor for them in opening this store on its site.

  21. prudentdriver says:

    “having a minimum sidewalk width where when you meet someone on the sidewalk one must stop to let the other pass is far from ideal. A better option exists that doesn’t cut our sidewalks down to the bare minimum.”

    In other words, when the rack is full of bikes, four feet of sidewalk width is available–which is fully compliant with the ADA.

    Find a violation and then bitch. Your credibility is slipping. What’s going to happen if your dream of a highly populated downtown comes to fruition? I’d bet you’d have non-stop hissy fits trying to negotiate fully ADA compliant sidewalks in, say, New York City.

    [slp — The bike rack issue has more to do with making our sidewalks friendly and inviting to all pedestrians than the minimum width allowed by ADA. When you don’t have wide sidewalks it is simply more logical to place bikes parallel to the curb rather than perpendicular, leaving more room for pedestrians.]

  22. Chris says:

    Don’t forget there’s a benefit at the Royale tonight to raise money for the two victims of the Century Building SLAPP suit. Yes, it is still dragging out.

  23. Jimmy Z says:

    The odds of the sidewalk being blocked by bikes in racks is much less than the odds of the sidewalk being blocked by sidewalk diners, here and elsewhere downtown.

    [slp — they are using the recesses of the windows to help place the tables & chairs out of the way of pedestrians. The bike racks are not in the way — but if used the bikes will be.]

  24. Dennis says:

    I’m with you on this one Steve. It only makes sense that if the sidewalk space is already limited, to place a rack parallel to it rather than perpendicular. Why can’t the city ever take a step back to LOOK at what they are doing first. I think most of what they do is just done to copycat something else they’ve seen. You know, “Well, that’s what everybody else is doing”.

    [slp — Thank you. Businesses must get approval from the city for placing things like tables & bike racks in the public right of way. Parallel to the curb equals the least restriction on the sidewalk space.]

  25. Stop Already says:

    “a.torch” aka Doug. Please stop beating the dead horse and let the Century Building go.

  26. St. Louis Neighbor says:

    “Stop Already” makes an interesting point. There are more people downtown now that have minimal connection to the Century building than they do to the new downtown. Ask them, and they would probably be thrilled with the new store and think it’s a worthwhile exchange.

    As old as St. Louis is, there will always be memories over decisions we’ve made as a community. The effort that went into the Century demolition/preservation fight was huge for those involved. It was four years ago. Will the bad taste linger? Probably. Is it time to move on? Most would say yes.

    But what about those still seeking legal action against the downtown residents who tried to block the demolition? How are Century preservationists supposed to move on so long as their friends are subject to legal action?

    Maybe it’s time for EVERYONE to move on?

  27. Tim E says:

    Please give me a break, The Century building was probably built on dirty politics. Old commercial buildings such as the Century were also built with one thing in mind. To make the owner money. So I can honor your principals and your choice not to patronize a store or not, but don’t believe for one minute that Schnucks/Desco is any worse than any other developer that came before them, now or in the past. Also, believe it or not. Schnucks is a testament to the buildings that have been saved and rehabbed into lofts. Otherwise, we would simply have more empty buildings and more willingness to tear more of the down.

  28. a.torch says:

    Who is Doug? That aint me, but I would be happy to meet you at the Royale tonight (fundraiser) for the preservationists being sued by the City over the Century building…your integrity speaks for itself!

    [slp — the fundraiser is from 6pm-8pm tonight (8/12/09 at The Royale on Kingshighway. Smoke-free, of course.)

  29. prudentdriver says:

    “The bike rack issue has more to do with making our sidewalks friendly and inviting to all pedestrians than the minimum width allowed by ADA. When you don’t have wide sidewalks it is simply more logical to place bikes parallel to the curb rather than perpendicular, leaving more room for pedestrians.”


    I would suggest that you take a look at the provided links. Missouri State Statute 300.347.1 clearly states, “No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district.” And City of St. Louis Ordinance 17.36.050 Part C1 clearly states, “No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk except in an area zoned residential.”


    Furthermore, Missouri State Statute 307.180 Section 1 defines, “The word “bicycle” shall mean every vehicle propelled solely by human power upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels, or two parallel wheels and one or two forward or rear wheels, all of which are more than fourteen inches in diameter, except scooters and similar devices.” And City of St. Louis Ordinance 17.36.050 Part A states, “Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.”

    Oh but it’s OK for them to PARK on a public sidewalk… it’s OK as long as they don’t ride their bikes on the sidewalk…


    [slp — Bike parking on sidewalks is common the world over. In places like Seattle & Portland they often take an on-street parking space and fill it with bike racks to provide plenty of bike parking. A bike can be walked to a rack on a sidewalk without violating the laws you cite.]

  30. lan parker says:

    I would think that the people in the midwest would be kind and let someone in a wheelchair pass without a problem. Lets be happy that we a store to go to and not have to drive miles to get some peaches or something.

    [slp — yes, everyone is uniformly kind and let me pass. But 5-6 of those times for every trip to the cbd gets tiring. Our sidewalks are not wide enough for two couples to pass by each other. To encourage more pedestrian activity you need generous spaces, not the minimum.]


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