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- SARA BANNOURA
- Urban Matter: a curated shop of gifts from local makers.
The charm of Urban Matter (4704 Virginia Avenue, 314-456-6941) is inescapable. Need statement jewelry for your BFF or funny gifts for your office buddy? What about upcycled children's shirts or a stylish handmade bag? With quirky home goods, kitchen trinkets and stylish accessories galore, Urban Matter is full of items that are ready to star on Instagram. Owners Mary Hennesy and Amy Schafer curate unique products that largely are sourced from St. Louis-area makers, boosting name recognition for emerging artists while feeding revenue back into the region. For the kitchen, check out graphic mugs by Carmelita Nuñez or magnetic bottle openers by Bearded Boards. Hungry? Pick up Banner Road Baking Company's handcrafted Kickstart granola, which is flavored with Sump coffee and Askinosie chocolate. One hundred percent soy wax candles from Webster Wax and Twinkle Brews — which come in upcycled craft beer bottles — keep the home smelling fresh, while a lotion bar from SeedGeeks and olive oil bar soap from Heartland Fragrance do the same for your body. Hennesy and Schafer also are investing in the community beyond the wares they sell; they've developed an adjacent small event space that's perfect for intimate weddings and pop-up dinners. With customers and clients becoming dear friends among the backyard's rustic seating and twinkling lights, Urban Matter is more than just destination shopping — it's one anchor of an up-and-coming destination district.
We're all about locally made products that support marginalized communities — especially when those products are so beautiful that they can't help but command attention. Based in McKinley Heights, Anew Nature (2201 Indiana Avenue) delivers exactly that with its handcrafted, Missouri-wood furniture pieces that literally put people to work. Founder Robert Karleskint, a stonemason and contractor by trade, designed his business to help those who have done prison time get the job skills necessary for a better future. Through an internship/apprenticeship at Anew (and, in some cases, regular employment at the furniture company), the men develop carpentry and safety know-how as well as soft skills like networking and time management, even while creating unique tables, cutting boards and more from walnut and elm sustainably harvested around the region. Because all pieces are handmade, they're unique in shape, texture and markings. A limited selection of pre-made pieces is available in the workshop and online, but Karleskint says that many customers prefer to design custom products with the team. Individuals and businesses commission Anew for shelving and conference tables, and the woodworkers even have developed major projects like a sensory motor room for children. Shop online or contact Karleskint through Anew's website form to arrange a workshop appointment.
St. Louis' newest comic book shop is still a work in progress, but as with all good superheroes, a fantastic metamorphosis is coming. Apotheosis Comics (3206 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-260-1689), which opened earlier this year in a smaller space down the street before moving to its present digs, aims to be a true gathering place for neighborhood four-color junkies through the best method possible — booze. The store is in the process of obtaining a liquor license to serve its namesake craft brew from Urban Chestnut as well as other spirited treats. And that place where you pay for your comics? That's not just a retail counter — it's a massive hand-built bar covered with icons for different versions of your favorite comics characters, including Deadpool, Superman, X-Men, the Flash and more. (Apotheosis hopes to begin serving drinks from it at a grand reopening event at the turn of the new year.) The shop is already plotting out game nights and series launches that will be even better when beer is added, but for now, shoppers can browse massive shelves of current titles and look through hefty longboxes of past treasures. Appreciating the mix of residents in its cherished South Grand neighborhood, Apotheosis staffers have curated a wide variety of LGBT-friendly and women-centered titles. Don't miss the large selection of comics by local artists and the bin of vintage figures!
- SARA BANNOURA
- Zee Bee Market: a South Grand spot featuring gifts from around the world.
Zee Bee Market
If you're looking for gifts with true impact, your best bet might be to head to Zee Bee Market (3211 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-932-1000). Founded by Peru native Julio Zegarra-Ballon, the boutique specializes in handcrafted items from around the world that directly benefit communities in need. All wares at Zee Bee are fair trade, which means that purchases support workers through living wages and safe environments. The well-made items also are eco-friendly and sustainably produced throughout their entire supply chain, from material sourcing to remnant reuse. Zee Bee's stock isn't just a status symbol for the granola set, though — everything in the boutique is cute, durable and unique. Check out the Revy messenger bags crafted from reclaimed tires and inner tubes or the WorldFinds necklaces with baubles covered with remainder fabric. The adorable Mr. Ellie Pooh notebooks and journals are made from elephant dung and recycled paper, while kids can enjoy felt and rubber shoes that look like sharks, lions and giraffes. Zee Bee also carries a wide assortment of gifts that are perfect for party hosts, including sculpted metal bowls, handmade ornaments and witty cards. The shop even carries items made exclusively for local shoppers, such as a recycled metal bowl that features the state of Missouri and reclaimed bicycle chain coat hooks arranged to spell "St. Louis." For gifts with meaningful stories and people behind them, Zee Bee is the place to go.
Everybody has that friend who completely lives. She dabbles in mysticism, goes to avant-garde art shows, brings the most glitter to every party and howls at a well-timed fart joke. This bud is the most fun to surprise with a gift, and there's no better place to shop for her (or him, or they!) than Cheap TRX (3209 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-664-1830). With an array of gifts for the home, for the heart and for sexytime, the shop has a little bit of everything. Cement your friend's status as the party fortune teller with a themed tarot card deck or desk-sized enchanting orb. Got a reader on your hands? A pair of dragon bookends carved from stone will keep their favorite novels tidy on the shelf. Don't miss local artist Paul Webb's hauntingly beautiful art, often displayed in the storefront window or among the home goods. Need something a little lighter? Eighties-themed mugs, character bobbleheads and catchphrase pins might do the trick. And if you really, really know your friend, Cheap TRX carries a huge assortment of adult items, from pipes and bongs to leatherwear and sex aids.
- SARA BANNOURA
- Herbaria: the Hill's source for everything aromatic.
At Herbaria (2016 Marconi Avenue, 314-601-3904), not only will a delightfully scented bouquet of soap smells greet you upon arrival, but you also may be welcomed inside by adorable store pup Soapy. This laidback watchdog, the cleanest in town, we'd guess, keeps an eye on all 60-plus varieties of soap — from almond-green tea and biotherapy black soaps (the latter has activated charcoal!) to the traveler's choice multipurpose soap and simple vanilla variety. All lovingly handmade in-store, Herbaria soaps come in various bar sizes and gift packs. There are also soaps in luffas, soaps for shaving, soaps for warding off bugs and, yes, soaps for washing up your own furry friend. Soapy would surely approve.
South City Art Supply
When Carson Monetti and Xena Colby were in college, they would often escape to the hospitable confines of a nearby coffee shop or bookstore, where they dreamt of opening a similar place of their own. Oddly, they were living in Boston in 2015 when they decided they'd go for it in south St. Louis. Although neither is a St. Louis native, Monetti had fallen in love with the city during a short teaching stint at SLU High. The location felt like a no-brainer. "It was crazy to us that there were no art supply stores in the city," Monetti says. Later that year, they opened South City Art Supply (1926 Cherokee Street, 314-898-0001), an art-centric shop with the soul of an old-timey general store. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly and the prices are great. In addition to the expected paint brushes, sketch pads and canvas, the pair also make their own ink in-house and are launching their own line of handmade notebooks. With the Lemp studios nearby, and the Luminary just down the street, as well as countless other artists in the neighborhood, South City Art Supply has become the hyper-local headquarters for the area's creatives. Says Monetti, "This neighborhood has really sustained us."
- SARA BANNOURA
- St. Louis Hop Shop: brothers Justin Harris and Ryan Griffin want to keep you in beer.
St. Louis Hop Shop
Brothers Justin Harris and Ryan Griffin took something of a leap of faith when they quit their jobs to start a craft beer store, St. Louis Hop Shop (2600 Cherokee Street; 314-261-4011), in 2015. The north-city natives stumbled on their concept out of personal necessity, as Harris told us then. "There just wasn't anywhere in the city with a nice selection of beer. We were laughing about it — 'We should open a beer store' — but that got the ball rolling." Clearly, they were on to something: It took the shop just two years to outgrow its original storefront. Now just a block down the street in a showier corner spot, Harris and Griffin promise "good people, good beer and good times" through a wide selection of local brands and an in-house bar. They open daily at noon and stay that way until at least 9 p.m. every night but Sunday, proving that a boutique selection doesn't have to mean boutique hours.
Lauren Thorp left behind the startup scene to open the brand-new Bonboni Home & Gift Co. (2246 Klemm Street, 314-472-3457), and the meticulousness that spurred her success as an entrepreneur is now evident in the charming shop she's created in Shaw. Located in a former candy shop in an otherwise residential block, Bonboni offers a hand-selected mix of old and new, from candles to tea towels to furniture to even custom silhouettes of your child. Need another size? Thorp's storeroom — a.k.a. garage — is right behind the curtain lining one wall. Befitting its status as a destination, the shop has extremely limited hours, from just 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Plan with precision.
The Bug Store
A go-to stop for gardeners with a sense of whimsy, the Bug Store (4474 Shaw Boulevard and 113 W. Argonne, Kirkwood; 314-773-9251) offers two locations, one city and one county. The Southwest Garden shop is beloved by city dwellers for a reason: It's a surprisingly big operation, sporting a double-sized storefront along with a second floor offering home décor and the oft-visited bargain basement. The main floor is the hub of the action, with bird feeders, wind chimes and whimsical decorations that would look great in most city-sized backyards. But apartment dwellers needn't feel jealousy; there are also air plants and other terrarium supplies, as well as a cunning collection of cacti. Herbaria soaps, novelty socks and a huge collection of Christmas tree ornaments make the Bug Store the perfect place to shop for stocking stuffers, too.
- SARA BANNOURA
- Flowers & Weeds: a garden store that keeps Cherokee Street blooming.
Flowers and Weeds
If a dozen roses isn't your ideal flower arrangement, check out Flowers and Weeds (3201 Cherokee Street, 314-776-2887). Located on Cherokee Street, it's a quirky shop and small nursery with a DIY terrarium station, pots and vases from local vendors, dried wreaths and grab-and-go bouquets, a booming wedding business, Sam Cooke playing on the store speakers and even some taxidermy (provided by the Creaky Crow Curious Antiques). Owner Jessica Douglass started small, doing floral arrangements for weddings out of the Heirloom Room on Cherokee; she opened up Flowers and Weeds at its current location in July 2015. Now, she and her team do 80 to 90 weddings a year, while managing the shop and maintaining ten outdoor annual beds, one outdoor perennial bed and the greenhouse inside. Flowers and Weeds specializes in creative, unique floral design, which has been appreciated by everyone from brides to the Saint Louis Art Museum — Douglass won "Judge's Choice: Best in Show" at the museum's 2017 Art in Bloom event, in which florists design arrangements inspired by famous works of art. Signs reading "Black Lives Matter" and "no matter where you're from, you're our neighbor" decorate the windows. Douglass believes that since she has a platform as a small business in the city, she should use it to make a difference.
After a liquid lunch in everybody's favorite party neighborhood, Soulard, you may be looking for a way to extend your visit without continuing to imbibe — and you'll find no better spot than the colorful storefront Cathy Weldon founded more than a decade ago. A neighborhood anchor since 2004, the Porch Wine & Gift Boutique (1700 S. 9th Street, 314-436-0282) is spacious, but still manages to feel cozy, with a wide variety of gift baskets, jewelry, home and garden items (including some furniture) and Vera Bradley handbags. And if you want to keep drinking, the Porch can help with that too: a big selection of wine bottles and the occasional tasting will help keep your buzz going all the way until dinner.
Saint Fucking Louis. It's not just the full name of our patron saint, but also the phrase on STL Style's perennially best-selling T-shirt. Jeff and Randy Vines have known that you can't spell style with out STL since 2001, when the brothers realized that cool ways to represent their favorite city were seriously lacking. Like all great entrepreneurs, the Vines saw a problem and came up with a great solution. For several years, they printed their own cool and quirky STL-centric merchandise, and in 2010 opened their own store on Cherokee Street, where they have a large collection of St. Louis-specific apparel and merchandise. Walking into STL Style (3159 Cherokee Street, 314-898-0001), more commonly known as "the Style House," a visitor is inundated with city pride. The shop has no shortage of T-shirts and prints of recognizable St. Louis landmarks and points of pride, including the famous Cherokee Street clock, a Highway Farty street sign and fun jabs at the county — the "Greetings from Chesterfield" postcard featuring a photo of an empty parking lot is our personal favorite. Whether it's your street, your neighborhood or the entire city that you are proud of, you can find a way to show that pride in style at STL Style.
- SARA BANNOURA
- Skif: your sweater source.
Step into Skif International (2008 Marconi Avenue, 314-773-4401) to browse, and the hum of knitting machines might fill your ears, while savory meal-prep aromas waft your way from the open kitchen. Part creative studio, workshop, hangout, fashion gallery and boutique, Skif offers up plenty of one-of-a-kind, hand-painted wearable works of art for the buying, along with its signature sweaters. With asymmetrical lines, funky sleeves and seams, and subdued wintry colors, Skif's single-size sweaters are both timeless and modern, providing a non-scratchy, part-cotton cold-weather option for stylish women of all ages. The shop also has become something of an incubator for St. Louis fashion: It's home to LAUNCH, a high-fashion boutique, and Project Runway alum Michael Drummond, who continues, from his space on-site, to innovate, create and "make it work." In fact, you might even get treated to an in-boutique tour by the designer himself.
Girasole Gifts and Imports
Since 2003, two couples — Marie and Richard Brand and Debbie and Joe Monolo — have been a part of what makes the Hill so special. Girasole Gifts and Imports (2103 Marconi Avenue, 314-773-7700), named for the Italian word for sunflower, is a proudly Italian boutique that features a wide variety of Italian imports, including jewelry, books, specialty food and even Italian soccer scarves. From Florentine leather goods and the famous glass art of Venice to a singing mustachioed teddy bear named Al Fredo, Girasole can give any home a touch of Italy. Though small, and charmingly cluttered, Girasole has an old-world feel that makes it welcoming to all visitors, whether they miss Italy or just want a little taste of it in south city. And if you're looking for a new home, the shop also sells the popular St. Joseph Home Sales Kit. Just bury it in your front yard and your home is as good as sold.
- SARA BANNOURA
- Launch: the Hill's destination for high fashion.
Alembika. Boheme. Lauren Vidal. Do these names ring a bell? They certainly do for shoppers at Launch (2008 Marconi Avenue, 314-325-6785), which is quickly becoming the high-fashion destination in St. Louis. Owner Lia Glynias returned to St. Louis in 2015 after twelve years in New York City's fashion industry. Upon her return, Glynias was asked to put together a fashion pop-up for St. Louis Design Week. Skif designer Nina Ganci then encouraged Glynias to open a shop of her own in Skif's building. At Launch, shoppers are encouraged to try something outside of their comfort zone. "We want this to be a fun and interesting place," Glynias says. This can mean trying on something from an Israeli designer, a Finnish one or one featured on Project Runway. The names on the labels aren't the only important thing about the items at Launch. Glynias is committed to featuring designers who care as much as she does about ethical manufacturing and sustainability. "I want you to find what you need when you come in, and if you decide to look deeper — at the quality or the design or the manufacturing — you'll feel proud to be a Launch customer."
Where can you buy a vintage basketball goal, a life-size nativity scene and fifteen used toilets, and do it for a good cause? Refab, of course! A nonprofit "deconstruction and refabrication" store just a few blocks from both Cherokee Street and South Grand, Refab (3130 Gravois Avenue, 314-357-1392) not only features one of the most interesting collections of items ever assembled in one shop, but does so in partnership with the St. Patrick Center downtown to provide on-the-job training and job placement for our city's homeless residents. Founder Eric Schwarz was inspired to start Refab in 2012 while working for Habitat for Humanity, where he saw great items being pulled out of old buildings and tossed into the garbage. Walking through Refab can be overwhelming at first, as its warehouse space is filled (in some places to the ceiling) with interesting items, all pulled from homes and buildings in St. Louis. They range from the mundane — bathtubs, cabinets, desks — to the unique. Once, after deconstructing a church, Schwarz's team found dozens of large papier-mâché angels, which he promptly put on display at Refab. "We like to keep it weird," he says. It isn't just a fact but, for Refab, something of an unofficial slogan.