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Bringing Life to a Suburban Corner


This weekend I was reviewing pictures from previous trips to Seattle and ran across images of a project I spotted on a 2002 visit. I found it quite interesting at the time and think we could do well to employ such thinking on more than a few corners in our region.

This Tully’s Coffee location is located in suburban Seattle (map). From this view you can see how it conforms to the sidewalk which includes right turn lanes typical of suburban streets. But pedestrians do exist in the area.


From the main street you can see the building is not very large but is well detailed. It creates a sense of place at the corner of an intersection that needed it. Street trees and outdoor seating make this a pleasant place.

You’ll never guess what it is in front of.



Yes, this small Tully’s Coffee location is in front of a typical corner Walgreen’s store. It includes entrances facing the corner as well as the Walgreen’s. I can envision people stopping at Walgreen’s to pick up something and deciding to run in for a latte. Conversely someone might stop for a coffee and realize they needed a few things they can pick up at Walgreen’s. It is a win-win for both retailers and the community.

I’m not a fan of Walgreen’s — they seem to procreate more quickly than rabbits. Throughout our region we have many stores identical to this one in Seattle. With so many existing and likely more on the way we should give serious consideration to such a concept.

It doesn’t have to be a coffeehouse at the corner. Could be a small restaurant like a Subway (or a locally owned equivalent). The idea is to begin placing buildings at the sidewalk line to make our cities more pedestrian friendly.

– Steve


Winghaven Grocer to Reopen!

A week ago I reported that Dave’s, a small grocer located in the suburban area known as Winghaven, had closed. Here is a portion of Dave’s letter to the community he served:

After many weeks of indecision it is with a great deal of regret that Kathy and I have to share with you that we will be closing our store for the last time Sunday, October 16, 2005.

The two and one half years we have been open have made us a success in everything we tried to do with the exception of one, and that is the financial portion of the business.

Today I learned the community has rallied to save Dave’s. Now the website read’s differently:

Thanks to this AWESOME community,

Dave will be back!

Apparently part of the problem had to do with debt associated with startup costs. I’m told about 500 people rallied to help Dave and raised an undisclosed sum of money to offset debts. Day to day operations are profitable.

Couple of things to consider….

Sometimes it takes incubating new retail in places where you are trying to change shopping patterns from auto-oriented to the corner store. This is where I think New Town at St. Charles is doing a good job getting businesses located in their central core.

A large parcel across the street from Winghaven’s Boardwalk is a large parcel of land that Pyramid has proposed new condos. Locals are hoping the City of O’Fallon approves the project quickly so new residents will be nearby to support Dave’s and other retailers.

– Steve


Winghaven Grocer Closes Store


Last January I shared the tales of a trip to visit friends in St. Charles County. I learned more about my friend’s grocery shopping habits:

They go to Dave’s on the Boardwalk in Winghaven. Earlier in the day, Dave himself took out their groceries to their SUV. Who knew such friendly neighborhood markets existed – much less in a new area in St. Charles County. This is not some glorified convenience store – they have a full selection of groceries including fresh produce and a deli. Plus, the store was very attractive in a smart way – much like our small Straub’s chain. I had low expectations and was immediately surprised.

Today my friends told me that yesterday was the store’s last day open. This certainly does speak volumes about the shopping habits of the typical suburban resident. They have a great market in walking/biking distance from their homes and they don’t support it.

Below is a note from Dave’s website:


A letter from Dave

After many weeks of indecision it is with a great deal of regret that Kathy and I have to share with you that we will be closing our store for the last time Sunday, October 16, 2005.

The two and one half years we have been open have made us a success in everything we tried to do with the exception of one, and that is the financial portion of the business.

Kathy and I tried to capture this “NEW URBANISM” spririt with the return of the old “CORNER GROCERY STORE” and feel that history will show that we were just four years too early.

We’ve had fun as we watched our friend’s and families grow, our friends getting married, and prayed for our friends working through health situations. We have enjoyed just watching the kids grow.

Please remember this special community that exists here in O’Fallon and work to keep it that.

We have been blessed in so many ways as each of you have been our greatest blessing. As our life continues into the future we know that we will have a difficult path to travel, but also believe that one greater than all of this will light the way.

We have made many friends here and hope to remain in contact with all of you, as we do live in the O’Fallon area.

While I began this with a “farewell” it would be more appropriate to use the Austrain version of “AUF WIEDERSEIN” (Until we meet again)!

Love and many thanks,
Kathy & Dave

P.S. Kathy, Dave and all our “GREAT” associates will be looking for jobs.

First I want to give Dave and his wife Kathy credit for giving it a try. Unfortunately Winghaven was billed as New Urbanism but it was really only a half-assed attempt at true New Urbanism. Blame can be pinned on the City of O’Fallon, the lenders afraid of something new and the developer for not pushing for the real thing. I would guess than when Dave signed on as a tenant he was sold a bill of goods.

We have only one true example of New Urbanism in our region and that is New Town at St. Charles. It is everything that Winghaven is not.

– Steve


Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

September 21, 2005 Local Business 11 Comments

Watching CNN this afternoon I saw a piece on Wal-Mart. Union and political leaders are finally waking up and realizing just how destructive Wal-Mart is to our society.

For many years my complaint was the big ugly store they built on the edges of small towns — closing main street. Then my issue was how they’d close several small town stores to open a super center — forcing many to drive even further from their old main street. Then we get the stories of employees being forced to work more than 40 hours a week without overtime compensation. The hiring of illegal aliens to clean stores was next. Now are all the reports of Wal-Mart price squeezing manufacturers to the point they either go bankrupt for move jobs to China.

Lower prices are usually a good thing. But at what point do we stop and realize that it is these low prices that is cutting into our way of life. What good will low prices be when all local jobs are exported to China? This is what is happening.

I’m certainly not a major fan of unions. Sometimes I think union leaders fight for wages and benefits that can make it hard to compete. An autoworker attaching a bumper on a car doesn’t need to earn twice as much as a school teacher. When they do it shows how messed up our priorities are. But what happens when the company is forced to outsource to China? The union, workers and community all lose out.

If you buy a Chinese-made low price item from Wal-Mart, or other big national chains, you are not saving money. Oh you may think you are saving money but really you are taking away work from a fellow American. You are also putting a business owner out of business. In the end that $3.99 item will cost each of us much more as we deal with an increasing number of poor and many more middle-class folks finding themselves out of work.

Wal-Mart says their average worker makes almost $10/hr – far greater than the minimum wage. I don’t doubt this at all. Still, a community cannot survive on a workforce making $20,000 per year. Who will buy houses? Who will support restaurants?

But people want to work for Wal-Mart claims the company. They cited a recent case of 12,000 applicants for 400 jobs in California. Does this represent high demand or high desperation? I think it shows how messed up our economy is. People should not be driving an hour to work at a $10/hr job. These 12,000 people applying for work at Wal-Mart stores should be manufacturing products to sell in stores owned by their neighbors.

This weekend I shopped at Soulard Market, Globe Drug on Cherokee and City Grocers. At Soulard Market I bought locally made soap from the Brende family as well as farmer-grown fruit and veggies. I also got a brownie from local employee owned baker, Black Bear Bakery. Admittedly, I bought a few magazines from Border’s in Brentwood on Tuesday.

Money talks and we must accept the consequences of how and where we shop. Places you will not see me are Wal-Mart, Sam’s, QuikTrip and local grocery chain and historic building demolisher Schnuck’s. I’m looking at local pharmacies so I can move my prescription from Shop-N-Save.

For more information check out WalmartWatch and a new film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.

– Steve


A.G Edwards’ “Street Smart” Brochure Adds to Workers Fear of City

Earlier in the week I found myself on the 2nd floor of A.G. Edwards’ main building and next to the soda machines were some employee brochures. In a few prior posts I had been a bit critical of the A.G. Edwards campus. Wait, that is an understatement. I started off with an expletive laced rant last November.

Street Smart: Facts you need to know about the A.G. Edwards campus and your safety.

I could not believe this brochure. As soon as I read it I was furious. Sure, it is wise to advise employees about safety but you can do it in a way that doesn’t scare them so much they don’t explore the city.

Crime can happen anywhere and at any time.

A.G. Edwards is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for employees and visitors.

The Security Department has prepared “Street Smart” to help you avoid becoming a crime statistic. With that objective in mind, here are some suggestions that will hopefully keep you safe, secure and, above all, “Street Smart.”

Oh, good start. I can just see the new suburban employee that doesn’t know the city just having fears reinforced by such language. It only gets worse.

They are told while driving to lock your doors because, “a driver is especially vulnerable immediately after parking or when stopping for a traffic light or stop sign.” Other sections while driving include “be aware of your surroundings”, and “have your keys ready.”

The first subheading after “If your car breaks down” is, funny enough, “Avoid a breakdown.”
I love it. For your safety have “plenty of gas and good tires.” This is good,

“If you have tire trouble in an area of town where you don’t feel safe, keep driving, but go slowly. Tires and rims can always be replaced.”

Granted, if you get a flat directly in front of a crack house then stopping and changing the tire may not be advisable. However, i lived across the street from a crack house for over a year and never had any problems (and no, I was not a client).

In the ‘While Walking’ portion of the brochure the first subheading is good advice — “Know your surroundings, and walk with a purpose.” Makes sense. But the paragraph that follows is just fear mongering:

“Studies indicate that muggers target those who send out a signal of vulnerability. People, who walk down the street looking preoccupied, with their eyes glued to the pavement ahead of them, are especially vulnerable. Let your body language show that you’re alert – in other words, that you’re not a good target.”

The entire brochure (3-panel letter sized) includes very sound advice but in a way that would discourage employees from walking and exploring the city. The safest sidewalk is a populated sidewalk and the A.G. Edwards campus creates lifeless sidewalks. If the area around their campus is not safe it is not because it is in the city but because all their parking lots and parking garages have removed diversity from the streetscape.

If only A.G. Edwards’ architects and planners would have had some urban design “street smarts” the area would likely be more vibrant.

– Steve