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Apple should look to The Loop

November 27, 2009 Retail 17 Comments

A decade ago Apple depended on a few retailers to display and sell their computers.  These retailers did a poor job, relegating the Macs to the back corner of the store.  Apple decided they needed to open their own retail stores to get their products in front of consumers.  May 15, 2001 their first store opened in Tyson’s Corner Center mall in the D.C./Baltimore area.  The St. Louis region has two Apple Stores – one at West County Center and the other at the Galleria.  Not all stores are located in enclosed malls.

Apple Store San Francisco - 2/27/2004
Apple Store San Francisco - 2/27/2004

Many cities have the Apple store along retail streets.  The San Francisco store above opened on my 37th birthday.

As of November 2009, Apple has opened 282 stores; 221 in 41 US states, 24 in the United Kingdom (20 in England, two in Scotland, one in Northern Ireland and one in Wales), 14 in Canada, 7 in Japan, 6 in Australia, 3 in Switzerland, 2 each in Germany, Italy and France and 1 in China.  (Source: Wikipedia)

The stores have been a huge hit.

Apple began building its own outlets in 2001, and they have proved enormously profitable. A record 42.7 million customers visited Apple Stores last quarter, generating $7.6 million in revenue per store, up 15% year over year. All told, Apple Stores brought in $6.6 billion in revenue in fiscal 2009, more than the whole company generated ($5.4 billion) in 2001.

“We have the highest performing retail stores on the planet,” boasts Ron Johnson, the former Target marketing whiz who runs Apple’s retail division. Johnson told the press on Thursday that the average Apple Store generates $4,300 per total square foot (including storage space), the equivalent foot for foot of 5 Best Buys and 15 Target stores.

The “significant” stores (what Apple used to call its flagship stores) do much better. According to a Bloomberg report last summer, Apple’s big glass cube on 59th St., across the street from the old Plaza Hotel, is the highest-grossing retail outlet on Fifth Avenue, bringing in an estimated $35,000 per square foot, nearly double the gross of Tiffany’s sales floor and triple Harry Winston’s.  (Source: CNN/Fortune)

With this great success recently Apple announced plans to keep expanding.

November 12, 2009,

Apple said Thursday that it expects to open 40 to 50 new retail locations next year and that it will focus on bigger flagship stores in major cities.

At a media preview of its fourth New York store, this time on the Upper West Side, Ron Johnson, Apple’s senior vice president of retail, said the company sees this location, as well as its glass cube on Fifth Avenue and newly opened store at the Louvre in Paris, as “significant stores.”

Its new stores, both significant and standard, will be larger, to accommodate the width of three product-display tables and bigger Genius Bars.“Our stores are too small,” Mr. Johnson said. “Our biggest challenge at the Genius Bar – we cannot build them big enough.”

More than half of Apple’s 40 to 50 new retail locations in 2010 will be outside the U.S., including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France and China, he said.

Apple doesn’t currently have plans to open more stores in Manhattan, Mr. Johnson said, but when asked if there were any plans for neighboring borough Brooklyn, he left it at, “Stay tuned.”  (Source: Wall Street Journal)

While the West County location just got revamped the Galleria store is quite small.  So this is where the Loop comes into play.  I think Apple should build a new location on the Delmar Loop to replace the small Galleria location.  The portion East of Skinker is ideal with restored buildings, modern new construction and vacant land a block from a rail transit station.  Specifically I’m referring to the site between Big Shark Bicycle and Miss Saigon Vietnamese restaurant (map/aerial).  Apple would then be in a new building of their own design on one of the most popular streets in our region.

The site is bigger than they would need so the total project would include more storefronts.  There are other vacant sites both East & West of Skinker but I think this one is best.  Hopefully Apple’s retail scouts will find this post and check out the Loop.

– Steve Patterson


Farmers’ Markets: How they benefit an urban community

Since the middle of May, I have supervised an organic produce stand at the Tower Grove Park Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings. I can’t tell you how many people have walked in front of our stand, wandered in to look at the produce, and bought produce from my co-workers and I. While there are occasional newcomers to the market, I usually find myself greeting a familiar face who is holding a canvas bag, ready to fill it with our organic produce. The newbies who shop at the market are greeted with a chaotic scene: dozens of people walking up and down the market paths, searching for that “perfect” peach, apple, radish, cucumber or bundle of Swiss Chard. There are people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicity, religions and creeds who shop at the market, and they usually bring their kids, dogs and significant others with them. That’s why I feel that a farmers’ market is an excellent way to tie a community together. Citizens from all walks of life can interact with each other in a comfortable setting and learn about each other and locally grown produce as well. I know that I have learned alot about the fabric of urban life in St. Louis, especially South City, while I have been at the market.

Tower Grove Farmers Market, May 2006
Tower Grove Farmers' Market, May 2006

The engine behind the farmers’ market is the farm that supplies the market with fresh produce. Tower Grove Park’s Farmers’ Market has a variety of suppliers and a few of them are local urban farms. Our farm, City Seeds,  is in downtown St. Louis, a couple of blocks east of Jefferson Ave close to Union Station. Consequently, we have had produce stolen from the property, we find people sleeping there on occasion, and we normally have to walk around the farm each morning and pick up trash, but the farm continues to prosper and inspire people who visit it and volunteer with us. I feel that our farm makes a positive difference in the downtown St. Louis community but our location may be compromised by Paul McKee’s Northside plan. But, that day is hopefully a way off and until Mr. McKee’s bulldozer destroys our property, we’re going to keep farming on it.

Finally, I pose a question to you, the loyal Urban Review STL reader: do you shop at local farmers’ markets (and I’m not talking about Soulard. 75% of the produce there is trucked in from California. Shocking, isn’t it?)? If so, which ones and why? Also, how could your favorite farmers’ market better serve you? More variety, perhaps?


-Tim Brinkmann


Urban Country Fair Saturday, Farm Aid Concert Sunday

September 30, 2009 Environment, Events/Meetings, Farmers' Markets Comments Off on Urban Country Fair Saturday, Farm Aid Concert Sunday

This coming weekend the fine folks from Farm Aid will be in Town.  Sunday October 4th I will be out at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (aka Riverport) to see the annual concert featuring Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and many others (see lineup). The concert can be viewed on DirecTV or streaming via FarmAid.org.

Saturday’s festivities are far away from the suburban concert setting.  Farm Aid will partner with local organizations to present an Urban Country Fair in Tower Grove Park in South St. Louis:

On Saturday, October 3, Farm Aid is inviting St. Louisans to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.

The free HOMEGROWN Urban Country Fair, curated by Farm Aid’s online community, HOMEGROWN.org, will feature exhibits and workshops showcasing ways that everybody can get involved with good food. From urban farming to composting, beekeeping, home brewing and all things in between, the Fair promises a day of hands-on, interactive experiences. Farm Aid’s partners for the event include All Along Press; The Greenhorns; KDHX Community Media; Local Harvest Grocery, Cafe and Catering; and the Tower Grove Farmers Market.

The fair will feature vendors celebrating modern homesteading and the connection to good food, farmers and the earth. Fair goers will also enjoy live music by The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir and The Northwoods.

Exhibits will include:
The Burning Kumquat Urban Farm – Urban farming
The Greenhorns – Getting started in farming and seed cleaning
Organic Valley – Butter making and young farmers
Floating Farms – Aquaculture
Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association – Beekeeping!
YellowTree Farm – Urban homesteading
Schlafly Beer – Home brewing
Upcycle Exchange – Crafting and repurposing
Earthdance – crowd-sourced mural painting
Rachel Bigler – Fermentation

WHEN: October 3, 2009, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

WHERE: Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, Tower Grove Park, West of the Pool Pavilion

Farm Aid founded HOMEGROWN.org to be a place where the love for food and the land evolves, deepens, and becomes something more fulfilling. The HOMEGROWN.org social network is a community of like-minded do-it-yourselfers who can share the bigger stories that food has to share.

Farm Aid’s mission:

Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual concert to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family-farmed food. Since 1985, Farm Aid, with the support of the artists who contribute their performances each year, has raised nearly $36 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms.

– Steve Patterson


Urban Homesteading Eliminates the Green Acres City vs Country Issue

Forty-four years ago today the CBS TV series Green Acres was first broadcast.  I loved repeats of this series during the 1970s.  Part of me wanted to live in the urban penthouse while another part wanted to try the farming thing.  The show started with Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor) crying over the prospect of leaving the city to follow her husband’s dream of farming the land:


So why am I talking about a campy 60s sitcom?  Last night I listened to Amanda Doyle interview a father (Jules Dervaes) and daughter (Anais Dervaes) on KDHX taking about their urban homestead in Pasadena California where they use their typical urban lot to grow food for themselves and sell the rest to others.

(click image above to view website)
(click image above to view website)

Lisa Douglas didn’t need to be dragged out of the city for Oliver Douglas to farm, a small plot of land in the city is sufficient.   Their website is http://www.pathtofreedom.com/.

The podcast of the interview should be posted on KDHX shortly and is usually available for a week or so.  The podcasts are also on iTunes.

Speaking of farms, today is “Fresh from the Family Farm, a restaurant event to benefit Farm Aid.  Participating restaurants will donate 20% of their September 15 profits to Farm Aid.”  I visited The Terrace View in Citygarden for lunch and will do another restaurant on the participant for dinner tonight.  Will be either Local Harvest Cafe, Stellina Pasta or Pi.

– Steve Patterson


Suburban Sprawl Descends Into Uncomfortable Middle Age

Most would agree that West St. Louis County is the poster child for urban sprawl. Over many decades, St. Louis development has crept westward through St. Louis County and into St. Charles County, the current epicenter of unrestrained sprawl. As time has passed, much of central and western St. Louis County have begun the inevitable cycle of aging and renewal that is associated with older urban areas.

My focus of interest is primarily on what urban planners refer to as the “second-ring western suburbs” of St. Louis. They are a microcosm of multiple older rural communities from the mid-to-late 1800s that have been folded into larger, newer cities over the past 50 years. They are all facing the need for urban redevelopment in the face of overwhelming evidence that many of the ideas embraced by the original suburban developers have not turned out so well.

In my city, Maryland Heights, this means a city without a town center. If asked, most people would cite either the Dorsett-McKelvey Road commercial district or Westport as our gathering places. One is a basic commercial crossroads and the other is an aging mixed -use development. Both are modestly successful and neither one represents a true central nexus for residents.

Part of the problem is that Maryland Heights is an anomaly in suburban development: it hosts over 80,000 workers during the day and houses only 26,000 residents at night. The reverse of a bedroom community, it often finds itself beholden to business and commercial interests at the cost of the residents.

This was clearly present in the 2008 fight that residents waged against development in the Howard Bend area of Maryland Heights. This area contains the flood plain around Creve Coeur Park and land on either side of the Maryland Heights Expressway from I-70 to the Page Avenue extension. Residents didn’t want to see a massive development (initially arranged around a proposed Walmart) that would back up against Creve Coeur Park. Maryland Park, as the proposed development was called, was set to build a bland suburban mixed-use project that was fully oriented toward cars.

The City of Maryland Heights has spent 20 years working on a comprehensive plan for Howard Bend that is the embodiment of urban sprawl focused on building commercial warehouses and one (or more) large-scale developments for big-box stores and retail. During the Howard Bend fight, residents became fully aware of what was contained in the comprehensive plan. While the process was public, the lack of effective public engagement by the city over 20 years had the unfortunate outcome of surprised residents visibly upset about the Howard Bend development plan. In fairness, residents also neglected their responsibilities by failing to interact with city government and make their wishes known.

Citizens who fail to monitor and influence their city governments are likely to be surprised and angry when the businesses who do engage with the city are given top priority. To combat this usual state of affairs, a group of concerned citizens originally organized under the flag of SaveCreveCoeur.com has developed into a more permanent organization called Maryland Heights Residents for Responsible Growth. As part of the steering committee, we have launched a new website for the community development organization at MarylandHeightsResidents.com

In the future, I will be contributing posts about the more universal aspects of the issues facing second-ring, western St. Louis County suburbs. Issues I intend to cover include:

  • Cities without town centers
  • Stagnant population growth
  • Diminishing open spaces
  • Flood plain development
  • Aging apartment complexes and housing stock
  • Public-engagement successes and failures
  • Community-development issues and specific projects being pursued
  • The role of residents in guiding city development

I look forward to hearing from you. Please use the comments section below or email me directly with topics you’d like to see addressed in future posts.

– Deborah Moulton