Week of April 21, 2004

Apr 21, 2004 at 4:00 am
Unreal Estate
No quo: "Stiffed Again," Unreal's gratuitous comment on the Excellence in Journalism award given to Richard Meyers, Webster University president, bespeaks a profound ignorance of publications less profit-oriented than the New Times corporation, owner of the Riverfront Times [April 7].

After subsidizing the St. Louis Journalism Review for 25 years, we decided to search for another source to underwrite SJR. After contacting various institutions, we decided on Webster University, a progressive school with a strong media department, under the leadership of Dr. Meyers. He was eager to accept that burden fully aware that SJR would remain utterly independent as is evident when reviewing the issues in the ensuing eight years.

Without Dr. Meyers' agreement to make SJR a part of the Webster family, it is quite possible that SJR, the only local journalism review in the country, would have had to close its doors.

No, Dr. Meyers is not a journalist, but he had done more for a responsible press in St. Louis than most journalists. His decision to enable SJR to provide a journalistic forum for alternative views which offers truth in journalism (at least they try), and to maintain university policies to establish a wall of separation between SJR and the interests of Webster University, make Dr. Meyers eminently qualified for the award.

A conflict of interest implies a quid pro quo. The only quo Webster receives is the knowledge that it is keeping alive an independent media critic.

Incidentally, it was my suggestion to establish this award and I am delighted that SJR has done so.
Charles L. Klotzer, founder and editor/publisher emeritus
St. Louis Journalism Review

Bye-bye Bergie: Unreal can give Jerry Berger a hard time ["Berger Bit," April 7], but we should all remember that he devoted considerable space in his column to organizations that help others.

Long ago, he was the first St. Louis journalist to write about abusive clergy. His mentions of our group in the early 1990s helped dozens of hurting victims find comfort and solace. For that, we will always be grateful to Jerry.
David Clohessy, national director
SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)
St. Louis

He vanished without a trace: Although "Berger Bites" never really got off the ground due to his retirement, isn't it strange that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has dropped all mention of him as though he was yesterday's news? I had contacted their letters-to-the editor-desk with some critical comments immediately subsequent to his announced retirement, and I would have expected at least one other person to have contacted them with something complimentary to say about Berger. However, the P-D ignored the subject in its entirety.

Does this, perhaps, imply that P-D management was not too enchanted with Berger's contributions?
Rich Gerding
Concord Village

Ding, Ding, Ding
A win-win-win situation: I want to compliment Mike Seely on his excellent article about the possibility of reviving trolleys in St. Louis ["Trolley Follies," April 7]. His feature not only was well-researched and well-written, but it included an incredible amount of information in its compact two pages.

I hope that a downtown transportation circulator becomes a reality. I also hope that a fixed-track vintage trolley system that connects the Loop to Forest Park becomes a reality. The Loop trolley will further stabilize the neighborhood and improve the quality of life for people who live and work in this exciting, diverse urban area. By attracting more residential and commercial development, it will be a great economic stimulator that could attract ten times what it will cost to build. Not only can the trolley be an attraction for visitors, it can be a source of pride for the metropolitan area. And most importantly -- it can be used as a prototype for stabilization and development in other neighborhoods.
Joe Edwards
University City

The Lou lag: Why is it that St. Louis always seems to be on the catch-up end of things? Heaven forbid that instead of all the shortsighted individuals who seem to be governing our fair city with all their squabbling over this or that, that we would have some strong private businessmen that have some common sense take the lead and get St. Louis out of the shadow of our neighboring cities.

Take Memphis, for those who have ventured that far: They have a wonderful trolley system that takes visitors from the Pyramid to the downtown area with space for both pedestrians and motorists. Yes, the initial cost will be more expensive, but once it is in place it will last for years. No offense to all the "experts" who have undoubtedly studied the impact of rail versus rubber at a nominal cost to us taxpayers, but if you gave me a choice of a bus made out of wood with some brass and bells and the real thing, the real thing would win hands-down. My trip to Memphis sticks out in my mind because of their real trolley system. I doubt that it would have if I had been on a faux bus.

When will all the people with all the money figure out that sometimes you shouldn't skimp on the real thing? With each success, the people of St. Louis win, the city wins and the investors win.
David Horst
St. Louis

A flaw in the system: Both Clay's and Edwards' trolley plans share one major flaw. The areas that they wish to service are already served by MetroLink. Blueberry Hill (in the heart of the Loop) is only five blocks from the Metro stop, and there is a stop about a hundred yards from the History Museum. Downtown is even better served with Union Station, Busch Stadium, Laclede's Landing and the convention center all having Metro stops.

If St. Louis really wants to put down trolley tracks, it should run them down Grand Boulevard from Grand Center to Gravois. This line would tie Saint Louis University, Grand Center and the Grand Metro stop with Tower Grove Park and the South Grand business district. The current Grand Metro stop is crowded and unwelcoming for visitors, and the No. 70 Grand bus is always crowded.
Harold Bruker
St. Louis

Rubber the right way: Joe Edwards has done a lot of good things for U. City and great things for Joe Edward$. I would suggest a trip to Savannah, Georgia, for Joe. They use electric minibuses (trolleys) that are (to use Joe's words) quiet and environmentally sound.
John Koziatek

Playing Ball
Out of the shadows: Mike Seely's March 31 story about the "Shadow Cardinals" is brilliant ["Tony La Russa's Manhattan Project"]. I love the premise, the points Seely makes about La Russa's unconventional managerial decisions, and simply reading the names "Carney Lansford" and "Kent Hrbek."

I laughed many, many times while reading the piece.
Matthew Summers-Sparks
Washington, D.C.

Food Fight
It's a jungle out there: Within every disagreement there are always two sides and then there is the truth. As a loyal friend of restaurant consultant Greg Perez and a loyal customer of Crazy Bowls & Wraps, I can say that this old adage certainly applies to Ben Westhoff's lopsided coverage of the recent menu changes at CBW ["Food Fights," March 31]. First, it is definitely true that Gail and Keith Kitsis have had a fantastic ten-year run with their health-conscious CBW stores. It is also true, but not expressed by Gail Kitsis, that the Kitsises went looking for a menu and operations consultant to help them update their menu and streamline their back-of-house procedures.

For the past ten years, the Kitsises have been pioneers of the healthy eating movement but their position in the marketplace is under serious attack. Today there are healthy offerings on every restaurant menu, not just at CBW. The St. Louis restaurant trade is becoming increasingly more competitive as chains (Qdoba, New York Burrito, Strata) open new locations and every other local restaurant takes notice of consumer demand for healthier fare. It is this cold economic reality that caused the Kitsises to seek outside counsel, not a fear of or pandering to the Atkins revolution.

CBW has a very devoted following, but the Kitsises were looking to increase their sales through an expanded menu that would appeal to more people. What they got from Greg Perez was solid advice about their menu, their prep procedures, their kitchen layouts and the importance of introducing the changes with a cohesive marketing campaign -- a plan that would introduce the changes without alienating their existing clientele.

Change is never easy and I empathize with the Kitsises and CBW's loyal fans. But the present economy and mounting competition threaten CBW's very existence. Perhaps the CBW loyalists wear blinders and don't see past the milkshakes replacing their favorite smoothies. My hunch is that, over time, the Kitsises would have benefited from a healthier bottom line via an increased customer pool and a much more efficient operation. Instead, logic dictates that they will see their sales slip and their profits decline as their "sophisticated clientele" return less often -- as it is inevitable that the CBW cult following will discover that many more restaurants are now offering similar healthy fare, for less money. As for Gail's deriding Perez's belief that CBW's food is "bland," one need not look further than recent comments by Dennis Lombardi of Technomic Inc., arguably the top restaurant consultancy in the United States: "The reason 'healthful concepts' have not worked in the past [and reached past the 20 percent of the consumers who are devoutly healthful] is that when people think 'health food' they do not think tasty food." It seems that Perez was merely referring to the general public's (again, that 80 percent of consumers) perception that CBW's menu is healthy but bland.

Again, the Kitsises sought outside advice and then put together a plan to make changes that they, themselves, approved. It is not Perez's fault that the Kitsises got cold feet midstream and never even spoke to the 80 percent of consumers who have chosen to pass on CBW. For Gail Kitsis to take a coward's stance and say that Perez "screwed up our restaurant so bad" is a gross injustice to Perez. She sought advice. It is like blaming the doctor for your heart attack after you ignored all of his advice and stopped short of following his recommendation to exercise. She signed the checks to Perez. She approved the changes. But like the heart patient, she chose to stop short of following the advice to thoroughly market the expanded menu to the public. She never gave the plan a fair shake (pun intended) but she has the audacity to pass the blame. Karma happens and time will show that the Kitsises' disrespect of Perez and his expertise is not only unjust, but hollow and misplaced.
John Oates
St. Louis

Last week's Night & Day item about the St. Louis Hurling Club contained several inaccuracies. Spring league games commence at 11 a.m. every Saturday (except April 24 and May 29) through June 26, at Parkway Northeast Middle School, I-270 and Ladue Road. Spectators are welcome; admission is free. According to club registrar Mike Dolan, new players should bring a helmet to 6 p.m. Wednesday practice sessions on the north side of Tower Grove Park. For more information, call 314-664-3134.

A Note from the Publisher
Here at the Riverfront Times our editorial staff reviews St. Louis restaurants every week. Once a year our advertising department produces a special issue that gives St. Louisans an opportunity to nominate their favorite restaurants. Ballots are carefully tallied under the supervision of the publisher to maintain the fairness and integrity of the polling process, and the results of the poll are featured in "Restaurants 2004."

"Restaurants 2004" is a fun way for St. Louisans to talk back to us; we regret any blunders, typos and/or misrepresentations the supplement may contain.