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MX Rises From Former St. Louis Centre, Pi Now Open

May 24, 2012 Downtown, Featured, Local Business 19 Comments

Two years ago the long process of demolishing the massive pedestrian bridge over Washington Ave was underway. The much-anticipated work began with the “Bridge Bash” on May 21, 2010. At the time it seemed like demolition was taking forever, but it took just over a month to remove the bridge and reopen the street to vehicles and pedestrians.

ABOVE: Looking west from 6th Street on May 22, 2010
ABOVE: Looking east on May 27, 2010
ABOVE: Looking east on June 21, 2010
ABOVE: The Laurel (left) and MX (right) on Saturday May 19, 2012

Work to reskin St. Louis Centre, patch the damage to the Dillard’s facade, convert the Dillard’s into the Laurel Apts and Embassy Suites did take much much longer. That was then.

Finally yesterday, something I’d long anticipated, Pi Pizzeria opened a downtown location. A week ago I stopped by and got a tour from owner Chris Sommers while managers were training new employees. Their other locations are all in 100+ year old buildings, this is their first in basically a new unfinished box.

ABOVE: Pi employees memorizing the menu on May 17, 2012
ABOVE: First new from scratch kitchen for Pi, all other locations had existing kitchens
ABOVE: Pi's soft opening on May 19, 2012
ABOVE: Outdoor seating adds much needed color and vibrancy to the area

Ok, so a pizza place opened? Big deal? Well yes, Pi Pizzeria is the the first business to open in the MX. Soon a movie theater and an upscale Asian restaurant will open in the same building. Across Washington Ave will be a wine bar and the National Blues Museum. This will be another spot of activity along Washington Ave.

Those downtown that think this is too far to walk can take the #99 (Downtown Trolley) to get here from various points, well, except on Sunday because the trolley doesn’t operate at all unfortunately.  The Convention Center MetroLink is at this corner as well so that’s another option. The building has tons of parking and hopefully short-term on-street parking will be aded along this part of Washington Ave soon. In another two years we”ll have forgotten all about that horrible  bridge that blocked vistas.

– Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "19 comments" on this Article:

  1. Momslittlerunningbuddy says:

    That is soooo good for downtown! I’m so proud that they actually finished a project they talked about. I’ll go down and eat there not because I love Pi (which I do) but because I desperately want them to survive. So great!!

     
  2. JZ71 says:

    I know you want to encourage the reuse of historic buildings, but I think you’re way off with your statement that “Their other locations are all in 100+ year old buildings, this is their first in basically a new unfinished box.”  Pi in Kirkwood is located in a building built in 1950.  That would be 62 years old, not 100+.  Pi in Chesterfield is located in a building built in 1969.  That would be 43 years old.  Yes, this was an unfinished shell when they leased the space, but the building is not technically “new”, it’s a reskin of building built in 1985, one that’s 27 years old.  That said, this is a great addition for downtown, and I hope they’re successful.

     
  3. Rick says:

    Do they sell pizza by the slice?

     
  4. JZ71 says:

    Another chain (and yes, Pi is a chain) that does both pizza and historic reuse well is Dewey’s, with locations in U City, Kirkwood, Webster Groves, among some newer ones in the ‘burbs.

     
    • Multiple locations of a locally-owned business is different than a franchise operation. Is Ted Drewes a chain? I’d say no even though they have two locations.

       
      • JZ71 says:

        Dewey’s has 14 locations in 5 metro areas, nationwide, none franchised.  Pi has 6 locations in 2 metro areas, none franchised.  Ted Drewes is not a chain, even with two whole locations.  Snarf’s has 14 locations in 3 metro areas, nationwide, including one in the Lopp here, none franchised.  Yes, 14 is twice as many as 6 – what is the “magic number”?  Waht is the dividing line between “chain” and “not a chain”?!

        You may view local ownership as a deciding factor, I don’t.  Any time you get more than two or three locations, and you start having to hire store managers, you’ve moved beyond a local joint, with a motivated, on-site, owner operator.  The St. Louis Bread Company is a locally-based chain, as is Lion’s Choice.  Neither one is a warm and fuzzy “local” operator.

         
        • Franchising is a clear line between chain and non-chain. Hamburger Mary’s is a small franchised chain. Among non-franchise establishments the line isn’t so clear. Pi’s Chris Sommers is part of the community, I pass by his house and I’ve seen him in the CWE.

           
          • JZ71 says:

            The big reason I brought up Dewey’s is that their Kirkwood location was recognized for their preservation and historic reuse efforts; Pi did not receive the same sort of recognition in Kirkwood.  Bigger picture, we need to encourage any business that respects and enhances the communities they choose to locate in.  My take is that both Pi and Dewey’s are doing so, and they’re both “winners” in that respect. 

            Local ownership is a whole different aspect of the discussion.  Local ownership, on a small scale, is almost always a good thing.  It’s when an entity grows that it, many times, loses track of their roots.  Imo’s is locally owned (and well loved by many St. Louis natives), but I’m not sure how engaged they are in their local communities.  I remember when Chipotle (and Quizno’s and Qdoba and Noodles & Co.) was first starting and had only one location in Denver – they were definitely a part of the local community.  And when a local investor buys into a national franchise, what’s more important?  The local investment or the national presence?  Personally, I look at the total package – food, respect, integrity and participation.  I’m less concerned with labels like “chain” or “franchise” . . . .

             
          • You’re the one that labeled Pi a chain!

             
          • JZ71 says:

            This was done preemptively – Pi has 5 local locations (plus their food truck) while Dewey’s also has 5 local locations – they’re not that different!  I expected you to characterize Dewey’s as somehow inferior because they’re from outside St. Louis and because they’re “a chain”.  I see the two as equals, similar in philosophy, with similar menus (both featuring great foods) and doing a great job at trying to be urban-centric operations, mostly in renovated, decades-old commercial structures.  You seem to think that locally-owned is somehow superior.  I cast a wider net, I’m less concerned with whether or not they’re “local” or from out of state, I just want to see good (and great) businesses invest in the metro region and to succeed.  Finding reasons not to support “good” businesses is simply counterproductive to many of the “urban” values you espouse on a daily basis.

             
          • I never mentioned Dewey’s in my post! I simply noted the first business in MX opened a little more than two years after the bridge demolition began.

             
  5. Rick says:

    Would Dewey’s ever open in the city?  Where do you think they’d want to be?  Interesting fact:  the company is owned by the DeWitt family, owners of the Cardinals, so maybe they’ll open a spot in Ballpark Village!

     
  6. Stlplanr says:

    Now, if only we could soon forget that other bridge over Wash-Ave just a few blocks farther east.

     
  7. Michael says:

    I hear rumours that a new health club is planned for this building.  True or False.  If true, when is the projected opening date?

     

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