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Crepes in the City reopening under new ownership

November 7, 2009 Downtown, Local Business 17 Comments

Crepes in the City, a popular downtown eatery, closed last month month after only a year in business.  New owners are taking over the space and plan to reopen with the same menu and name.  Changes will be minor.  For example, more comfortable seating, I’m told.

Each weekend the line was always out the door but Tuesday-Friday business wasn’t enough to make it work.  The new owners hope to do things differently enough so the place turns a profit.  No date yet on when the business will reopen.

Downtown businesses have it tough.  Some in the middle of the central business district tend to cater to the weekday lunch crowd but are closed evenings and weekends.  Get West of Tucker (12th) and you lose the business lunch crowd but the weekend loft dweller crowd becomes important.  Either way they must figure out how to pay the rent.  Staying open longer hours to attract more customers sometimes costs them more in employee salaries and utilities.

I’d heard the Pasta House Pronto at the Old Post Office closed as well but it is still listed on the Pasta House website.  Espresso Mod on 9th Street closed last week.  They blamed the heavily subsidized Culinaria grocery store for their drop in business.

Restaurants or retail, some places endure and some go away replaced with something new.  One thing is certain, I’ll take my changing restaurant options over a series of chain places along the interstate any day of the week.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. Fenian says:

    That is good news. Few places in St. Louis serve Pisco, so I hope the new owners keep that up.

    I don’t know much about Espresso Mod, but Culinaria has been open for less than 3 months. It is possible that Culinaria took much of their business, but I would assume they must not have been doing that well to fold in such a short period of time.

  2. M. Harms says:

    Can we please stop mentioning the subsidies that Culinaria received? Yes, Schnucks received govt funds to open a major grocery store downtown, which was sorely needed. The city will make that money back in droves, especially given how much more attractive downtown is.

    I almost moved out of the Washington Ave area, and one of the reasons why was because of the lack of basic amenities like a major grocery store.

    I wish restaurant and cafe owners would stop demonizing Culinaria. Rather than cry about the subsidy, how about you market and differentiate your product, and engage in a little competition?Ultimately, Culinaria makes downtown more attractive to St Louis residents. In turn, businesses can reap the benefits of additional customers, so long as they’re not short sided enough to miss the big picture.

    [slp — I agree with you that a store like Culinaria was needed but the tax subsidies are very relevant. Do we now subsidize a Borders because Left Bank Books isn’t big enough? But we must remember just because a business cites a reason for their closure doesn’t make it fact. The original Crepes in the City owners blamed the highway 40 closure. I don’t think the highway impacted their weekday breakfast/lunch crowd at all. It was an excuse.]

  3. W Kruse says:

    I will sorely miss Espresso mod. They had the best breakfast sandwich! I couldn’t even wait to get back to my office to dig in, often unwrapping it on my walk because the aroma of fresh cooked egg and turkey sausage was just to much to resist.

  4. Todd says:

    I’m not so sure that downtown is really competing for residents with the bland suburbs you allude to at the end of your post. It’s more likely competing with other urban neighborhoods within the city (or non-bland, urban inner ring suburbs), many of which have far more vibrant street life and better retail options than downtown. As an urbanist type, when I moved here last summer, I very much wanted to live downtown, since I work there and value being able to walk to work, but it still felt like too much of a ghost town, even along Washington. Once I visited the Central West End, it was really no contest.

    As to espresso mod, I suspect they were just going after a convenient scapegoat. Coffee shops and grocery stores are rather different animals. As a downtown worker, I’m glad to see the Schnucks. I liked the old City Grocers, but its selection was pretty lacking (especially in produce) as a grocery store; the new concept seems like a good innovation for them, though it never seems that busy, even at lunch.

  5. Dwntn Wrkr says:

    I took my coffee business to City Grocers three years ago after paying for Espresso Mod coffee and then paying for City Grocer coffee. City Grocers had better prices and better coffee. Culinaria has fine coffee, but I’m keeping my coffee business at City Gourmet.

  6. stannate says:

    I loved Espresso Mod and am really sad to see them disappear. I was lucky enough to fill out several of their loyalty punchcards so that I could not only get a free coffee, but also some free gifts like a hat, a T-shirt, and a pound of ground coffee. The extra touches that that store had, such as the free cookies on Fridays, made them stand out from other coffee stores downtown.

    And yet, I am disappointed that the owner has quickly blamed Culinaria’s tax subsidy as the reason for the failure of his business. Worse yet, too many people are biting on this bait (the KMOV report on the ADA-violating(?) Baladas, along with the ongoing Urban St. Louis thread about Espresso Mod). If, all things being equal, Schnucks opened its store without a subsidy, Espresso Mod would still be out of business. The backroom TIF was one of many sleazy deals that brought Schnucks downtown, but once they opened for business, it was the consumers in downtown STL who voted with their wallets. The 40% drop in business suffered by Espresso Mod after Culinaria’s opening would have happened without the TIF being present. The recognizable local names of Schnucks and Kaldi’s, and the longer serving hours for both, were positive draws that brought the customers inside–not the tax subsidy.

  7. kb says:

    I was sorry to see that Crepes did not succeed. Sorry too that the previous owners had to fold – I liked very much the ambience of the restaurant and I hope the new ownership retains that.

  8. John M says:

    Mary has passion. I overlooked things that did not make sense and in general wish they had made sense, for their sake. I find it hard to believe that the new owners can replicate what Mary and for that matter Jose brought to the table as far as that passion is concerned.

    Artists in general are not open minded individuals to something beyond their vision and Mary qualifies as a true artist and I respect that. They need someone to reign it in a little. It is kind of like architects and engineers. They need each other.

    While I really liked the restaurant they created and hope that I am wrong about new ownership; my real concern is with the asset that Mary and Jose represented in the community and their future well being.

    Thanks for the information on the closure and it reminds me why I look to you to keep me in the loop.

  9. Chad says:

    “If, all things being equal, Schnucks opened its store without a subsidy, Espresso Mod would still be out of business. ”

    Well, gee, if “all things being equal, Target and Wal-Mart opened downtown without a subsidy”, then Macy’s would be gone too.

  10. stannate says:

    That’s most likely true, Chad. If one of those stores were to open up, I don’t doubt that the downtown Macy’s would be suffering sales losses further than what they already have. I doubt that either Wal-Mart or Target feels the need to put a store in downtown STL, as it would require either a lot of land for a typical big-box layout, or a total redesign that will let the store fit into a dense urban area. Then again, if the Rams were to move out of STL, the Dome could always be imploded and a Super Wal-Mart could take its place (that is, if another casino doesn’t already get there first). [note for the reading impaired: that last sentence was tongue-in-cheek]

    A couple lessons I’m taking away from Espresso Mod’s closing are:

    1) This is one example of what gentrification looks like, and
    2) There’s only so much money floating around downtown STL to support businesses.

    Lesson #2 is more of a concern for me than Lesson #1, as even larger franchises have found that the wallets in downtown STL may not be enough to support well-known names (Walgreens, McDonald’s, etc.), or that oversaturation may not be the way to meet an audience’s needs (between Starbucks and Kaldi’s distributors and places that get their coffee from elsewhere, is there enough cash to support that many coffee joints downtown?).

  11. Todd says:

    I’m shocked that the downtown Macy’s is still open; whenever I go in, there are very few customers. Its hours are insanely limited, and it lacks the selection of the suburban stores.

    Regarding Target, they actually do a lot of non-big-box stores in the urban cores of large cities (unlike Walmart, which is totally absent from most large cities). When I lived in Los Angeles, I would routinely shop at the West Hollywood target, which was not set up in a “big box” format (i.e., it was on the second level; the building came all the way to the sidewalk, with no parking lot; parking was in an underground garage), and it was always packed.

  12. Jimmy Z says:

    Gentrification is a double-edged sword. I was there when the Pearl Street Mall opened in Boulder, and for many years it was the domain of local businesses. But much like the Delmar Loop, the success of local businesses attracted the chains, and many landlords (being in it for the money) were, and are, willing to rent to whoever will pay top dollar for the space. If the chains aren’t/are no longer interested in downtown here, I’d be concerned, really concerned. It’s, unfortunately, a very real symptom of non-gentrification and a symptom of probably a lot of/too many struggling businesses. Altruism and vision only go so far. Those darn employees and suppliers expect to be paid on time, chain or not, and spouses and partners expect to see profit, maybe not immediately, but at least in 3-5 years. Otherwise, it’s not a business, it’s a hobby and/or a money pit.

    As for Macy’s, they may have started out as one of the local department stores, but they’re now just another out-of-town chain, and one that’s shrinking/”right sizing” their store. I give them kudos for hanging in there, but I also think that many downtown residents would take a Target over a Macy’s in a heartbeat, if and when that could be made to happen . . .

  13. doug says:

    I know that Lion's Choice is a chain but I was sad to see it go. And Joesph's next door shuttered as well. But it looks like Copia is finally going to reopen.

  14. bud says:

    Crepes will not open under the same name. Check out:
    for more info

  15. bud says:

    Crepes will not open under the same name. Check out:
    for more info

  16. bud says:

    It will not open under the same name. Check out http://www.facebook.com/welovelola for more info. Rumor is that they were planning on opening a resident lounge in one of the loft buildings when Jose and Mary skipped town.

  17. angelamb says:

    its true there are new owners, but the name has changed. “lola” lofty libations and downtown creperie… from what i hear,The NEW menu will feature a few of the old crepes with a new twist and a whole new menu of small plates,crepes and other bar nosh. The concept seems to be as much a hand crafted cocktail lounge, with signature drink menu and live music venue as a restaurant /brunch spot. It look like they are really going to bring something unique to downtown. brunches are said to be continuing on the weekends.


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