Sitting on the former site of the Blumeyer Housing Project -- St. Louis' last housing project dedicated to families -- Chronicle Coffee (1235 Blumeyer Street; 314-534-0524) aims to revitalize the area in a way the housing project never could. The shop, which opened on February 22, serves coffee, smoothies, pastries, soups and sandwiches to the North Grand community.
"Controlling the narrative" serves as the coffee shop's motto, and it's emblazoned on every cardboard sleeve that shields customers' delicate hands from their piping hot to-go cups of coffee.
"Controlling the narrative, for me, is the new 'Just do it,'" owner Jason Wilson explains. By providing a space for local groups and organizations to meet, as well as having a staff largely made up of locals, Wilson wants his coffee shop to serve not just his community's caffeine needs, but their social and economic needs as well. He wants to control the reputation the area has received -- and start to change people's minds about its economic viability.
Wilson hopes that by starting a business in a downtrodden area, he will re-energize North Grand Center, and he expects his business to encourage other business owners to set up shop in the area.
"There aren't a lot of companies coming down here to this community, obviously," Wilson says. "But they should. There's a massive amount of infrastructure available here. There's no reason why in the world that we don't have more people building businesses here. "
So Wilson decided he'd be the first. Never an avid coffee-drinker, Wilson instead appreciates coffee for the conversations it creates, and the coffee shop for the community it builds. In December 2012, Wilson acquired St. Louis-based Northwest Coffee Roasting Company while already in the process of opening Chronicle, his first restaurant endeavor. For now, Chronicle serves Northwest Coffee, but Wilson said he is developing his own roast for Chronicle.