Home » Local Business » Recent Articles:

BicycleWORKS Offers Great Programs & Great Bikes

Gas prices got you down? Try bicycling either to work or for errands. If you need a good & inexpensive used bike I know just the place: BicycleWORKS.

Located in the Shaw neighborhood at the corner of Shenandoah & Thurman (map), this non-profit teaches kids to rebuild bicycles through the Earn-A-Bike program. Their mission statement:

Saint Louis BicycleWORKS was founded in 1988 by a Shaw Neighborhood resident who saw the need to provide area youth with the opportunity to develop a skill and to challenge them to test the limits of their abilities. This vision combined with the universal appeal of the bicycle became the building block of this innovative organization. BicycleWORKS is the first St. Louis program to use the bicycle as a vehicle to teach youth responsibility and good work habits. Its programs are structured and work-intensive. BicycleWORKS combines vocational training with educational enrichment and challenging physical and mental activity. Bicycle Works is located in the Shaw neighborhood at the southwest corner of Shenandoah and Thurman and welcomes applications from youth ages 9-17 from any St. Louis neighborhood.

Adults seeking a good used bike will have luck there as well as the volunteer staff rebuilds bikes to sell to help fund the work they do with kids. I know many of the people involved in the group and trust me, they know bikes!

Their main hours are 10am to 1pm on Saturdays. Volunteers are needed if you are interested.

Even if you are not in the market for a bike I suggest you check out their new website — it is really well done with some great photos.

– Steve


New Retail Garden Center Opens in CWE

Please do not buy plants at Home Depot. Preferably, don’t buy anything at Home Depot or the new Lowe’s when it opens in Loughborough Commons. I would be thrilled to see both of these big box chains close their St. Louis area stores due to everyone shopping at locally owned stores instead. But, I’m getting sidetracked on a big box rant. This is a positive post!

Bowood Farms

A very cool looking new garden center has just opened in the West End at 4605 Olive:

Bowood Farms has been growing quality plants since 1989, specializing in perennials, roses, ferns, groundcovers, grasses, shrubs and vines. We have an extensive line of missouri native plants as well. Now we are bringing these quality plants directly to you so please come check out our new St. Louis retail garden center when it opens this spring. Please call for hours and directions. We can also special grow native plants for you landscape projects, please call to inquire.

4605 Olive St.
St. Louis, MO 63108
Telephone: (314)454-6868

This company is making a huge investment in the area. They’ve done a great job with the buildings so far and they are planning more, including a cafe. From hellmuth+bicknese architects:

The project is being designed as a destination point featuring a central street side cafe with a terrace overlooking the plant displays. A high loggia surrounds the open-air displays with an upper gallery beneath a green roof. The cafe itself contains a bar and seating area with 14′ ceilings and views to the plant displays through a green screen archway. The inside seating area is around 860 SF with an outdoor terraced seating area of 1,200 SF.

The cafe are is still under construction but the retail garden center is open for business.

St. Louis City and County are dotted with other locally owned retail garden centers such as Bayer’s on Hampton. I’ve also bought plants at the place on the NE corner of Watson & Fyler (I always forget the name). I think the South Side Garden Center is still open on Cherokee at Compton. Even if you are not in the city you most likely have a locally owned nursery near you home. Some are small but others can be quite big and offer a larger selection than the big box places.

So back to Bowood.

Ghetto barriers in CWEThe building is located on Olive just East of Euclid. But, if you are going there by car don’t take Euclid because you can’t get through. The streets in this area have been blockaded for years.

At one time these concrete barriers may have made sense but today they stand in the way of investment marching through areas where it is needed. A few places, like Bowood, have leapt over the barriers but the area still has the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ feel. Take them away, or at least move them a block or two every few years.

– Steve


Banners Have Gone Too Far

All over the city, especially downtown, you see banners for new condos and lofts. Long vacant buildings have massive colorful banners announcing the project and where to find more sales information. These are a great visual way to communicate that something is happening in these buildings. Visitors to our city can quickly see St. Louis is rockin. The banners, thankfully, are just temporary until the building is finished.

What about when the banner is not promoting a project but is purely advertising?

mikeshannons.jpgThis weekend I spotted these colorful banners on the Market Street side of Mike Shannon’s new location. At first I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and had to loop back around to make sure I was seeing this correct. Yes, there in big letters was advertising for AT&T and Cingular Wireless. How tragic.

I’m not a fan of sterile streets. I like activity, color, lights and such. I’m also more inclined toward advertising for the business located in the building rather than a building owner selling their wall for advertising. I’m not a fan of vinyl banners.

A century ago we saw large sides of buildings painted with advertising, sometimes for the business in that building and sometimes not. Today those old signs are regarded as charming and actually helpful in identifying historical information. While I’m not advocating Mike Shannon’s paint advertising for AT&T on their building I do see a difference. The painting was semi-permanent and a testament to how long the business was expected to be around. Vinyl banners look cheap because they are cheap. The look temporary because they are. But how temporary?

Will Mike Shannon’s keep this banner up until AT&T changes their name again? Maybe until they find someone else that wants to sponsor their North wall? Are vinyl banners to become a common sight on buildings all over the city? I certainly hope not!

I scanned the City’s Comprehensive Sign Control Regulations but it wasn’t readily clear to me if the banner at Mike Shannon’s is in violation or not. Mike Shannon’s did an outstanding job on the renovation of the building with its large windows and attractive patio. Pity they felt it necessary to ruin the look as they have.

– Steve


Local Stores Offer More Humor Than Chains

February 24, 2006 Local Business, Travel Comments Off on Local Stores Offer More Humor Than Chains

CityMarket.jpgSeattle’s City Market store offers a humorous take on current affairs to attract customers. A friend of mine sent me this image he took while walking home from work the other day. Apparently this local market is known for its signs. My friend wrote in his email:

These are the folks that brought us “The Passion of the Sandwich” and “Salvador Deli”

Humor is one of the things seldom expected from big national chain stores or even regional chains but is often the hallmark of the business owner behind the counter at a locally owned business. Yet one more reason to skip the chains.

– Steve


The Gelateria Rivals City Grocers for Most Significant DT Neighborhood Contribution

February 22, 2006 Downtown, Local Business 23 Comments

After speaking to a class at Webster’s Old Post Office campus last night I headed over to meet a friend at The Gelateria for what else — gelato! A steady stream of customers came in and out during the nearly two hours we hung out. Finally around 9pm I decided it was time to scoot home.

Today I’m back at The Gelateria having a beverage while checking email and updating my site (yes, they are a free wi-fi hotspot). With weekend hours until midnight they are the late night destination place downtown.

At the end of 2004 I proclaimed City Grocers the best new thing:

A grocery store as the best of 2004? YES! Nothing else will have such an impact on the future of downtown as a grocery store. Schnuck’s Markets development arm, Desco, is busy razing the Century Building for a f*cking parking garage – they can’t be bothered with serving the real needs of downtown. But, local developer Craig Heller and grocer Rance Baker decided to fill the void by opening City Grocers in the ground floor of Heller’s Bell Lofts. Heller, Baker and the staff of City Grocers are the urban heros of 2004!

While City Grocers’ role is not diminished by the new kid downtown they are challenged for the title of most significant neighborhood contribution. I’ll call it a tie for now. However, Joe Edwards’ bowling alley, Flamingo Bowl, may be the new king when it opens this summer.

If you haven’t checked out the grocery selection at City Grocers or the hazelnut gelato at The Gelateria you are missing out.

– Steve

[UPDATE 2/23/06 @ 12:30pm – Changed headline from “…most significant downtown business” to “…most significant DT neighborhood business.” This should help clarify that I am talking about businesses that contribute to the feel of a neigbhorhood and not a 9-5 CBD. Nobody decides to spend a Saturday downtown due to ATT/SBC (unless they are putting in OT). – SLP]