The story of Happy Up Inc. sounds like a fairy tale pulled from its own shelves: Last year the owners of this eclectic Clayton toy emporium (then called LagoonaMagoo Toys) were staring down the barrel of financial trouble. After 25 years, it seemed like playtime had finally come to an end. But then the public and local businesses stepped in and donated to a "Save the Toy Store" campaign — some $80,000 later, the store was indeed saved. Since then, LagoonaMagoo has become Happy Up Inc., but nothing has changed about the store's philosophy. Though smaller than its flagship counterpart in Illinois (formerly Once Upon a Toy), the St. Louis branch of Happy Up Inc. is still densely packed with all manner of silly gadgets, from mesmerizingly pliable Kinetic Sand to a wearable mermaid fin for your pool-bound Disney princess. And while the free gift-wrapping will come in handy for those kiddie birthday parties, the best perks here are the Toy Experts. These employees seem to bubble with infectious, childlike delight at finding the perfect item for that precocious tyke, whether it be an educational toy or Whoopee cushion. With any luck, the Toy Experts at Happy Up Inc. will keep spreading the "Do Touch, Do Play!" mantra for decades to come.
After only a year tucked behind Antique Row staple the Heirloom Room, Flowers & Weeds owner Jessica Douglass has turned a greenhouse and small garden into a veritable Eden just off Cherokee Street's beaten path. Douglass made her name in the local floral scene with her elegant selection of terrariums — enclosed worlds designed inside reclaimed glassware and filled with responsibly foraged Missouri ferns and mosses, starkly beautiful succulents, or the alien Tillandsia, whose leaves take water directly from the air. Lulu's Local Eatery, the food-truck-turned-restaurant with a distinguishing commitment to all things green, displays Douglass' handiwork in its new South Grand space. Once she opened her own shop, Douglass attracted a long line of brides to her door, thanks to her encyclopedic knowledge of flora and rustic yet luxurious aesthetic. And it sure doesn't hurt that Douglass charges south-city, not Ladue, prices.
Tying the knot at the Fabulous Fox Theatre is a celebration not only of the joining of two souls, but with the historical soul of St. Louis itself. The couple can have their names splashed across the marquee and have the ceremony atop the grand staircase in the Fox's main lobby. The bridal party can ready themselves in the very dressing rooms that have hosted legends of the stage throughout the decades, and first dances can take place in front of a bejeweled curtain on the main stage. As wedding one-upmanship goes, this is the nuclear option, and the Fox can accommodate guest lists of massive size and scope. To reserve the Fox you must commit to a $25,000 food-and-beverage minimum for your event. Then again, recent studies have shown that couples who have bigger weddings are more likely to stay together — and what could be bigger than that? Give the Fox a call for a tour, and just ask for Thom Johnson.
Your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life. But planning the wedding? That's more like Hell on earth. When your parents are the ones paying for the big day, moms can wield checkbooks like a devil's pitchfork. But that's not what happened when Kristin Lucks Shelton got married in May 2007. She and her mother, Connie Lucks, loved planning her nuptials so much that they joined forces and entered the wedding-industrial complex head-on, opening their own salon, Fleur De Lis Bridal Boutique, on Maryland Avenue in downtown Clayton in January 2011. Fleur De Lis is the exclusive vendor for several couture wedding dress lines, including Modern Trousseau, Elizabeth Fillmore and Liancarlo, as for jewelry from Erin Cole, Homa Bridal and Miss Allaneous. But the best part of Fleur De Lis isn't the dresses, the jewelry or even the sparkling wine — it's Shelton and Lucks' eagerness to make their brides the center of attention, both at the salon and on their big day. If you're looking for both the rock-star treatment and the princess gown, you'll find both here.
If you really want to get sexy and swanky, there's only one place in St. Louis to go for lingerie: the Saks Fifth Avenue at Plaza Frontenac. It's one of the only places in town to get your hands on high-end designer lines like La Perla, but there are plenty of everyday options too. Pick up cool-girl staples like Cosabella and Hanky Panky, whose lace underwear comes in a handy one-size-fits-all option that is figure-hugging sexy no matter your shape. There are also separates from top designers like Stella McCartney, Donna Karan, Helmut Lang and all the Spanx you could ask for. And of course, if Saks is out of something you want, they'll order it for you and have it shipped for free. Your significant other will thank you.
Pitaya is actually a small chain based in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana, but it's easy to assume it was tailor-made for a cool, young St. Louis woman. The prices aren't outrageous, which means budget fashionistas can wear all the latest trends without the fall-apart-after-three-washes problem you run into at Forever 21. Get festival-worthy cutoff shorts and crop tops, slouchy sweaters and leggings for the colder months, or cute tops and dresses for painting the town red. There's also a decent stock of accessories, including bags, jewelry, sunglasses and headbands. Stop by often for the ever-changing selection and frequent sales.
Imagine the greatest neighborhood block sale you've ever been to. Now imagine it with nothing but brand-name, gently used children's items. Got that image? Then you can picture what it's like inside Once Upon a Child, the franchisee-owned chain of resale shops that is always stuffed to the rafters with row upon row of kids' clothes, shoes, costumes and more. Seriously, one wonders how it can get all the merchandise inside these stores and how it is that items such as a near-new North Face jacket, a pristine pair of L.L. Bean boots or an adorable Nordstrom dress can be picked up for so little coin. And Once Upon a Child isn't just for moms looking to outfit their kids: It's also a place for savvy parents to offload the gear their kids have outgrown in return for cash and/or store credit, a formula that ensures that Once Upon a Child is always stocked with fresh content.
Some people don't consider antique or second-hand stores when furniture shopping. After all, everything there is so...old. Surely nothing will match modern sensibilities or hold up to ornery kids, right? Wrong! Quintessential Antiques curates sturdy, interesting pieces that obliterate that kind of thinking. Looking for a bench for the foyer? They've got a local church pew from the '60s that'll do the trick. Need a dining-room table? Attach a glass top to one of the store's extra-large, ornate concrete building friezes, and enjoy the sturdiest meal in the universe — even if little Susie starts World War III by throwing spaghetti at her brother. There are tons of practical pieces throughout the store for every room in the home, and even if you're not in the market for vintage chic, you can be sure you're buying something that has stood the test of time.
The Future Antiques is easy to spot (right near the intersection of Chippewa and Watson), but hard to get to. Do yourself a favor and consult the website directions on how to navigate the labyrinth of alleys and one-way streets protecting the parking lot like a moat. Future Antiques has three big rooms filled with mid-century modern treasures — the front is filled with old kitchen gear, cameras, barware and all sorts of assorted kitsch. The middle room has some great vintage clothing for men and women (there's a changing room in front), and the back room is packed with furniture finds, everything you need to furnish your '50s ranch-style home or tiny south-city apartment. You may find a naugahyde-faced bar with stools, some old Falstaff coasters, a porkpie hat or some postcards featuring motels that used to line STL's stretch of Route 66. You won't find this variety under any other roof in the city. Stop in often: The stock is updated frequently, and let the staff know if there's something special you're looking for. Chances are, they can find it.
Nestled into a brick building on the corner of McCausland and Bruno avenues, Tin Roof Antiques has been owned and operated by Jon Trudell for the past 35 years. It's impossible to describe all of the cluttered little shop's inventory because it's always changing, but the main floor features pottery, place settings, books, magazines circa 1930, jewelry, model trains and airplanes, and lamps stacked to the ceiling on top of wooden desks, chests of drawers, china cabinets and armoires, among other items. Feathered hats and pre-1950s paintings in elaborate frames hang on the walls. The shop has a lot of 19th- and 20th-century furniture and is known for buying collections (like the Boy Scouts collection currently for sale). Sarah Rodel, who runs the shop with her uncle, Trudell, says the shop typically looks for items from the 1950s or earlier, but it always has an eye out for the "unique and unusual." It gives free in-store appraisals and makes house calls. Tin Roof is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but it is wise to call ahead of time.
Bargains are great, but the real reason to shop at thrift stores is to find cool, totally unique clothing items. Let the hordes head to the malls en masse and buy their uniforms, the outward marks of their dull, unimaginative lives: Adventurous souls will head to Natural Bridge Road in north St. Louis County to find some original treasures at Value Village. Don't be put off by the bright fluorescent lights; they're a great help in checking for cigarette burns and bourbon stains on that dress. Continue sifting for a pre-Prohibition cocktail glass, a Curtis Mayfield album and a turntable on which to play it, plus some skinny ties or a mod miniskirt. Whatever you find, it'll be one of a kind.