Giganti's pretty wholesome himself, with a beautiful wife and six kids (she wants two more). One wall of his Clayton Road store is lined with certificates from the Gemological Institute of America, but after graduate work there, he left decadent Los Angeles to come home. Rubies and pearls tumble through his veins -- his grandfather was an Italian jeweler in Cuba -- but simple courtesies flow alongside them. When a young man, smitten, decided he had to propose that very night, he called Giganti and begged him to bring the engagement ring. Giganti obliged, calling from his cell phone when he reached the apartment building. "I'll meet you out back," the guy blurted, and raced downstairs, hands shaking like fern leaves in a strong wind, to grab the ring from trusted hands and take hold of his shining future.
At the Zootique, stuffed animals, games, puzzles and educational books await. Dongola the Hippo and Ruwaba the Rhino need someone to cuddle with. Board games such as Funky Monkey and Rainforest Roundup both amuse and educate. The little ones will want to handle everything in the store and will no doubt beg for this or that toy. When confronted with those pleading eyes, just remember: Golden Garden Spider replicas are not so much a toy as a learning experience (but don't tell Junior that).
The Missouri Historical Society's Louisiana Purchase Shop has the monopoly on gifts with a local connection, from the popular Monopoly, St. Louis style, to oh-so-cute historical-figure dolls -- Meriwether Lewis and Kate Chopin, for example -- in period attire. Culinary enthusiasts may want to serve their guests using reproductions of Madame Chouteau's china, from the egg cup priced at $22 to the $162 fish platter. Also, something new and truly unique: reproductions of prehistoric pottery, copied from finds at Cahokia Mounds.
And you can make a day of it and walk through the park from one to the next to the next.
No more opening your car door, crawling through the automatic doors and exposing yourself to bright florescence; simply drive up, ring a bell, pay the man and get your booze -- and an angel gets its wings. Life is good when you can pick up beer, Red Bull, vodka, smokes and ice barefoot and return to the crib, sit down and get lazy. Plus, there's never a line, a luxury always worth paying for.