Pre-2020, STL Stylehouse was best known as the city’s go-to spot for whimsical and civic-prideful T-shirts and similar apparel. And while that’s still the case, Stylehouse has also become well-known for its entries into one of the year’s most booming new economies — the selling of face masks meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. The shop’s St. Louis-inspired masks have become favorites of the local citizenry and its government alike, with Mayor Lyda Krewson and numerous members of the Board of Aldermen counting themselves as customers. Designs include variations of the St. Louis flag, photos of the skyline and other cityscapes, and, naturally, one that just reads “SAINT FUCKIN LOUIS.” Show your appreciation for the city you live in while keeping those around you safe from your germs — it’s the stylish fuckin’ thing to do. — Daniel Hill
Those businesses that fall under the Goods & Services subsection of our Best Of celebration may not have been the hardest hit in this god-awful pandemic — we'll save that designation for the live entertainment industry, or perhaps the restaurant industry, or maybe bars, or ... you know what? This whole thing has been an unstoppable bloodbath for just about anyone whose last name isn't Bezos, so let's not make a competition out of it.
The point is, our favorite purveyors of goods and services have had it rough this year, but they've been doing their damnedest to survive, just like everyone else. For many, that meant being forced to shutter temporarily early in the year, when only "essential" businesses were allowed to remain open. Then, even after getting the green light to open up again, they've had to deal with reduced capacities, mask mandates, belligerent asshole customers who don't believe in masks (fuck those guys) and just the uncertainty that comes with trying to do business while a deadly virus stalks the streets.
But like so many, the industry has proven adaptable. From the STL Stylehouse's wise decision to begin selling St. Louis-themed masks alongside its other apparel near the start of the pandemic, to Naturally Pure Salon's extensive safety measures that allow you to stop looking terrible while still staying virus free, to the incredible amount of sanitization now employed by every one of these businesses just to keep their customers safe, St. Louis' best have proven they have what it takes to weather the storm. Here are some of our favorites. — Daniel Hill
One time, when a certain reporter brought his 1996 Toyota Camry into Everything Automotive for some repairs after an accident, said reporter was surprised a week later to find that the good people at the shop had spray-painted a wizard onto the hood of the vehicle — for free! Truly, in an age of lackluster service and shoddy workmanship, Everything Automotive stands head and shoulders above its competition, willing to go that extra mile to make sure its customers leave happy. And for those of you who, for some odd reason, would rather not have the image of a mystical being emblazoned on your vehicle (you prudes) there’s good news: They will also leave that service off, without you even asking — also for free! Aside from all of that, the shop’s small staff offers that rarest, most valuable thing in a car repair shop: honesty. You can bet that if you bring your vehicle to them you won’t get some bullshit upsell or unneeded repair tacked onto your bill. No nonsense, no refills on “blinker fluid,” no hassle — just outstanding work at a fair price in a timely fashion. These days, that’s even more magical than the mighty Zanzabar the Great himself (yes, the wizard has a name). — Daniel Hill
There are myriad fantastic reasons St. Louis’ literate love to support Left Bank Books. Their wide selection and friendly staff are two of the most obvious, or maybe to pay homage to the best bookstore cat there ever was, Spike (RIP). But one of the best may be its championing of trans rights. The owners of the shop recently changed the game in the book-buying business by helping to create an e-commerce system that doesn’t dead-name its customers, an endeavor near and dear to co-owner Jarek Steele’s heart. Steele, who transitioned sixteen years ago, says he was mortified when a friend who was transitioning ordered a book from the shop’s website and its e-commerce system failed to refer to that friend by her preferred name. Steele took his case to the American Booksellers Association, whose checkout system is used by many independent bookstores, but was told that remedying the matter would require too much coding. That led to a practice wherein, for years, the shop’s employees manually entered customers’ preferred names. But with the massive surge in online book sales that came with the COVID-19 crisis, that system became unsustainable. Steele petitioned the ABA again, and this time he was successful. As of September, the system now requires the entry of a preferred name during the ordering process, meaning all communications from Left Bank — and those bookstores across the nation who use the same system — will no longer inadvertently dead-name their customers. It’s a huge win for trans rights, and it only happened because the owners of the best bookstore in St. Louis cared enough to make it so. — Daniel Hill
When did a trip to the hardware store transform into an hours-long quest through a labyrinthian maze, one guarded by the evasive, orange-aproned Keepers of the Tools, and why must we answer a series of riddles just to secure the products we’ve come to purchase? If you’ve ever found yourself asking that question while traversing the expansive grounds of one of the big-name chains, you need to bring your business to Overland Hardware Co. A cornerstone of the Overland community, this shop harkens back to the days of small-town service and knowledgeable staff in a hardware store — a simpler, more merciful time when compared to the experience in your average Lowe’s or Home Depot. Here, the secrets of the hardware store game have been passed down to employees for decades — family secrets, even, being that the shop’s current owners are the sons of those who first opened the Overland Hardware Co. all those years ago. In short, they have what you need, and they are ready to answer your questions. Just don’t ask them why people waste so much time and money at the chain stores — no one in their right mind has a good answer for that. — Daniel Hill
With the legalization of medicinal marijuana in the state of Missouri a done deal, the wink-wink, nudge-nudge days of raising an eyebrow at a head shop employee and telling him you want, um, a “water pipe“ for your, er, “tobacco” are now solidly in the rearview mirror — but you can bet they haven’t been forgotten by the proprietors of Emporium Smoke Shop. That’s because the Delmar Loop establishment has been in this game for decades now — since 1997 — and with all that time and experience comes a whole lot of institutional knowledge. This is good for new, er, “patients” (we’ll still be using that terminology for the time being) who don’t know a batty from a zeppelin, a dab rig from a dugout, or if it’s really necessary to drop $800 on a bespoke hand-blown glass piece with magic mushroom detailing (it’s assuredly not, but hot damn that Chad G fella has some serious skills). The friendly staff at Emporium will be more than happy to walk you through their wares and help to meet your needs, whether you’re dealing with flower or extract or vapes, or even keeping it low-key with CBD. And when you spot an intriguing piece of glassware among the many lining the walls, do feel free to call it a “bong,” but don’t call it a comeback — Emporium has been here for years. — Daniel Hill
If you think about it, it’s kind of weird that we go to antique stores looking for something new to buy. But not all antique stores are filled with just dusty old books and rusted “decorative” farm equipment from last century. Treasure Aisles Antique Mall has something for everyone, from classic antique furniture to clothing styles from the ’80s that are so retro they’re back in style again. Because it’s an antique mall (and not just a single antique store), the items displayed have been put up for sale by people with all different kinds of taste. The individually styled booths offer a wide range of goods, and some are frequently switched out, meaning that each visit to Treasure Aisles could reveal a new previously hidden treasure. — Jaime Lees
This thrift shop outlet lets you buy your clothes for $3 per pound at its north St. Louis County location, called The Factory. Its South Grand location, The Boutique, offers clothes sold by the piece. Found By The Pound’s two locations embrace “the different aspects of resale and encourage you to explore both!” The clothes come in quantities of hundreds of pounds and hit the shelves for St. Louisans. The clothes are meant to match the “hip, funky, bohemian vibe of South St. Louis City.” The company also recycles any clothing that is not used for retail. — Matt Woods
Sure, there are ways to get your hands on a medical marijuana card without the doctor’s office experience. There is, in fact, something of a cottage industry around the practice. Consider the case of the Brentwood-based Health City MD and its so-called “CannaBus,” a van that traveled the state throughout the summer of 2019 making stops at head shops and the like for the express purpose of providing physician’s certifications en masse to long lines of would-be patients. But that rather slapdash approach can feel shady as hell — consider the fact that the CannaBus came under investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol last fall for allegedly selling weed illegally. For those legitimate patients with medical conditions for which marijuana can be helpful — especially those with little prior experience with weed — an actual office visit can ease some stress and answer some important questions. Enter Dr. Pratistha Strong of the Kathmandu Clinic. Dr. Strong is a fully licensed doctor of osteopathic medicine who conducts medical exams and consultations out of an actual brick-and-mortar office. Born in Nepal, Dr. Strong incorporates elements of eastern and western medicine for a holistic approach that, when appropriate, just so happens to include the use of marijuana. She’s knowledgeable and kind, and doesn’t even try to sell you weed out of a van — in fact, she’s happy to put you in touch with resources so you can grow your own. — Daniel Hill
Few things have the mind-quieting satisfaction of gardening, or even tending to a few potted plants. We’re mentioning that for no specific reason, because these are completely normal times and it is in no way overwhelming to have a narcissistic maniac running our country during a plague. Anyway, should you feel the need to direct your thoughts toward something relaxing and good, Maypop Coffee & Garden Shop is a wonderful resource. Set in a repurposed old house with the greenhouse around back, Maypop offers a pleasant escape. One window at the front porch is set up for your coffee order, while another on the side is the pickup window, which helps avoid any customer gridlock. The shop offers curbside service for its wide variety of lovely plants, and you can even sign up for a monthly subscription service. The idea of having a new plant to look forward to every month seems appealing. You can also watch instructional videos, streamed through Maypop’s Facebook page. That’s probably a better use of your time than the doom scrolling you had planned. — Doyle Murphy