While grocery shopping, do you enjoy examining the virtues of numerous varieties of each item, ending up with a cart full of esoteric ingredients? If you answered yes, skip this entry. Everyone else, buckle up. From the outside, Ruler Foods (multiple locations including 2700 South Grand Boulevard, 314-772-1410) — simply “Ruler” for those who know — looks like nothing special, and perhaps even dubious. Inside, however, shoppers will find something akin to a cleaner, neater, more organized and less expensive version of that well-known grocer that rhymes with “baldy.” Ruler is owned by Kroger (most packaged items are store brand) and carries most basic groceries (though not all), along with a good selection of higher-end options. Want organic produce and eggs, whole-wheat tortillas, tofu, non-dairy milk and protein ice cream? Ruler has that. Prefer your basic ground beef, Cheerios, frozen pizza, tortilla chips, sandwich bread, peanut butter and rice? Ruler has that, too. Prices are shockingly low. Be warned: First-time shoppers have been known to wander the aisle muttering, “But … how is this so cheap?” —Jessica Rogen
Let’s face it: The lure of convenience with Amazon or your local big-box behemoth is real. Yet St. Louis has great boutiques where you can snag much better, more unique finds, from sleek, retro furniture to designer duds on the cheap to cheeky mugs and T-shirts for the bad boss in all of us. You just have to put in the work. Shopping local is a treasure hunt, and the fun involves not just finding items within the store, but finding the stores themselves. These hidden gems are sprinkled around the city for you to discover. And once you do, you’ll feel good knowing that your money is staying right here in St. Louis to support your neighbor. Pop in, say hi to the proprietors, and let yourself discover something new. —Rosalind Early
SCREENSHOT VIA TWITTER
The @StlPoliticClips account is one of the most important Twitter follows you can make as a St. Louisan right now. The community-based research project, started by resident Joshua Lawrence (@JoshuaLawrenc_), takes note of important moments at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and posts short video clips of them to Twitter, helping St. Louisans who don’t have the time (or attention span) for six-hour meetings to stay up on their local government. The account doesn’t just post potentially viral clips from aldermanic meetings but also transcribes the dialogue and tracks the bills being discussed in a Google doc open to all. @STLPoliticClips is a testament to the dedication residents devote to making the city a better place, an exercise in keeping local government accessible to the general public and an effort worthy of a round of applause. —Jenna Jones
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The pandemic hurt a lot of what we hold dear: gatherings with friends and family, indoor dining, small businesses. Yet despite all odds, a slew of new independent bookstores have opened in St. Louis, and we love to see it. In May, Ymani Wince brought the Noir Bookshop (2317 Cherokee Street, no phone) to Cherokee Street. Noir, which is French for black, features books relevant to the Black experience. Its south-city neighbor Spine Indie Bookstore & Cafe (1976 Arsenal Street, 314-925-8087) opened the previous fall in Benton Park, stocking only titles from independent bookstores and publishers. Readers hungry for more than prose can also grab some food: Spine serves pastries from Delish, sandwiches from Elaine’s and beverages from Blueprint Coffee and Big Heart Tea. For bibliophiles looking for a more robust beverage menu, Protagonist Cafe (1700 South Ninth Street, 314-833-3085) opened in Soulard just before the pandemic, serving lattes, pour-overs and espresso alongside a collection of over 5,000 used books. And in St. Louis County, specialty store Betty’s Books (10 Summit Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-279-1731) opened in late 2021, bringing comics, graphic novels, children’s literature and manga to Webster Groves. —Monica Obradovic
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If you want to get stylish while supporting a great cause, look no further than Forai, a nonprofit that teaches immigrants to St. Louis how to make textiles and jewelry. American volunteers train the women, who go on to make bracelets, bangles, baby bibs and jewelry bags. Jen Owens founded the company in October 2009 after a transformative Thanksgiving dinner hosting two Bhutanese families. The families had lived in refugee camps in Nepal for 16 years before finally coming to America. The women knew very little English, and after their years of being forgotten in the camps, Owens wanted to do something to help them earn extra income for their families. Forai — an acronym for “Friends Of Refugees And Immigrants” — allows the women to learn handicrafts, get paid to make products and work from home. After they learn the necessary skills, they can even take Forai-provided equipment home to work on their pieces. The program trains up to a dozen artisans and 20 to 30 people on the sewing team each year. You can find Forai’s handicrafts at shops around town, including the Nook (9794 Clayton Road, Clayton; 314-695-5435), a nonprofit shop benefiting St. Louis Children’s Hospital, or online at forai.org. —Rosalind Early
During the launch of the Missouri Independent in October 2020, editor Jason Hancock quoted fabled investigative journalist Wayne Barrett, best known for his work at our former sister paper, the Village Voice. Barrett famously equated journalists to “detectives for the people.” The description defined Barrett’s work, and it’s come to define the Independent as well. The nonprofit, online-only publication brings together all the pillars of a good news source: It’s fast, it’s accurate, it’s thorough, it’s fair and, most importantly, it’s present. As perilous times in recent years have caused newsrooms to shrink, no other news source in Missouri has eyes glued to the statehouse with such dedication. The Independent’s rock-star team of longtime Missouri reporters not only covers the most pressing news of the day but produces some of the most important investigative journalism in the state, presenting it in a non-fussy, straight-to-the-facts style for free. No ads. No paywall. Just pure “detective” work for the people. This is the second straight year we’ve selected the Missouri Independent as Best News Source, and we expect it won’t be the last. —Monica Obradovic
COURTESY GREEN SHAG MARKET
Green Shag Market.
Need quality mid-century-modern furniture? Mushroom-shaped cookie jars? A velvet painting of Elvis? Vintage gowns that rival those of vintage Hollywood stars? The Green Shag Market (5733 Manchester Avenue, 314-646-8687) will help you find the vintage goods you need — and even some you don’t. The market brings together different vendors, all of whom have different retro aesthetics. One booth may offer ’70s vibes with groovy lava lamps and wicker peacock chairs, and the next may suggest early Mad Men with clean lines and rounded corners. Basically, it’s a treasure chest for adults, and treasure hunters won’t have to dig too far to find items they’ll love. All of the merchandise at Green Shag rotates often, so each visit offers something new. Prices range from bargains to high end (mostly for furniture and original art). The Green Shag is exclusively for weekend trips, with hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. —Monica Obradovic
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Spine Indie Bookstore & Cafe.
Spine Indie Bookstore & Cafe (1976 Arsenal Street, 314-925-8087) is way more than a place to peruse the shelves while sipping a cappuccino — though it is indeed a great spot for that. Spine is also one of the best places in town to catch local talent of all stripes. The year-old shop’s event calendar is chock-full of poetry and prose readings, which may not be unexpected for a bookstore. But owner Mark Pannebecker also books standup comedy, singer-songwriter showcases and storytelling hours inspired by the long-running NPR show The Moth. Plus, many of the books adorning the shelves also have local roots. It’s not unusual for a bookstore to offer a handful of books by local authors, but Spine is a consignment retail bookstore, making it especially welcoming to writers who want to get their work in the hands of readers. If you’re curious what St. Louis has to say, sing, joke or write, Spine is the place to take it all in. —Ryan Krull
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Expect good finds at Mesa Home (2619 Cherokee Street, no phone). The tiny store on Cherokee Street packs a lot of power into its small space with heavily curated vintage clothing from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. Owner Annie Jones and her staff meticulously select the most stylish finds, with some pieces upcycled and reworked before sale. On a recent Saturday, we found vintage denim elevated with hand-painted designs and tie-dyed pants and jeans collaged with vintage fabric. (Check out @mesa_home on Instagram for a preview.) Mesa also supplies sustainable swag for the little ones with Mesa Baby, where shoppers can find vintage clothing for children. Beyond its cool threads, part of what makes Mesa Home such an enjoyable visit is its connection to its community. Mesa sells home goods and art created by local artists and makers. And for the past six years, the store has hosted an annual Black-owned Black Friday pop-up market to showcase the work of Black artists, creatives, makers and brands. —Monica Obradovic
Apotheosis Comics and Lounge.
Hanging out at a comic-book store on a Friday night might not be your go-to plan. But Apotheosis Comics and Lounge (two locations, including 3206 South Grand Boulevard, 314-802-7090) is much more than a comic-book store. While it sells all the timeless comic books and graphic novels you’d expect, Apotheosis is also a place to see open-mic comedy shows, play table-top board games and sip cocktails. The store opened its second location at Cherokee Street and Jefferson Avenue last fall after the success of its four-year-old flagship on South Grand Boulevard. The Cherokee Street location serves as more of an event space, with tables for game playing and arcade games in the back. As for the South Grand original, its shelves packed full of comics have made it a new St. Louis classic. —Monica Obradovic
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Byrd Designer Consignment.
Where do the best-dressed women of Ladue cast aside their fabulous frocks when they’ve run their course? Judging by the racks full of wonderful finds at Byrd Designer Consignment (8825 Ladue Road, Ladue; 314-721-0766), it has to be this stylish shop at the Colonial Marketplace strip mall. Byrd succeeds where other consignment shops fail with smart organization (by size range and then color) and an impressive selection of like-new dresses, tops, jeans and even stilettos from all the brands you covet, from rich-bitch designers like Versace all the way to youthful favorites Kate Spade and Alice + Olivia. Let’s face it, the women who resell to Byrd aren’t wearing these items more than once or twice before they cast them off, so the clothes are generally of the moment and in great shape. Beyond that, shopping here is downright pleasant. The lighting has such a flattering glow, you’d swear you were in a pricey boutique. The bonus? The staff is so warm and friendly, you’ll know you’re not. —Sarah Fenske