Here at the RFT, we're celebrating our 40th anniversary all year long, and how better to honor the very month of our founding than by visiting the 40 shops we love best in greater St. Louis? We excluded both bookstores and record shops since we wanted to go beyond our two great obsessions, reading and music. Even so, we found it downright painful to narrow the list to the 40 you see here today. (Maybe that's why we cheated a bit: Check out our bonus sidebar, a three-pack of single-item-focused food stores.)
Each of these shops is the product of a unique vision, a St. Louis entrepreneur with a dream and a business plan. But paying a visit won't feel like homework. Use this list to shop for the holidays, buy a gift for someone you love or just give yourself a little pick-me-up. We made it to 40; isn't that excuse enough for you to treat yourself?
Is Thor: Ragnarok based on an actual comic book series? Did Batman and Superman ever really duke it out? Is Wolverine truly dead? These are the questions moviegoers often ask after being inspired to visit a comic book shop for the first time. Luckily, Star Clipper (1319 Washington Avenue, 314-240-5337) is the perfect place for newbies to learn the basics. The staff — comprised of fans of every genre, writer and artist out there — excitedly leads new readers through the confusing histories and timelines behind those big-name superheroes, suggesting must-read series and event crossovers. And there's more to love at Star Clipper than the storylines that receive the big-screen treatment. Pick any age or interest, and employees will pinpoint a non-DC, non-Marvel series that perfectly fits the bill. Want something whimsical and child friendly? Check out Wrapped Up, a series from St. Louis publisher Lion Forge about a mummy kid whose wish to eat pizza every night is granted by a wizard, with questionable consequences. What about something that speaks to millennial concerns? Try the biting Snotgirl, which contrasts a blogger's perfect social media existence with her real-life hell. Star Clipper has plenty to love even if comics aren't your bag, thanks to a huge assortment of character-driven plush toys, collectible figures, home goods and board games. From a Funko Pop! version of Pennywise the clown to intricately sculpted busts of Wonder Woman, the shop can cover everyone on your gift list.
Everybody needs a little bit of glamour, especially during the holidays, and City Boutique (4300 Manchester Avenue, 314-657-0125) offers it in spades. The clothing shop, which sits at the bustling intersection of Manchester and Tower Grove avenues, features everything from workplace attire to everyday outfits, but the special-occasion pieces are where it really shines. Employees say that velvet is the big trend this winter, so they've curated a huge collection of crop tops, pants and dresses made from the luxurious material. Fashionistas also will notice that City Boutique is jumpsuit central, with the one-piece style available in an array of fun fabrics, colors and prints. Boots and shoes of every type and heel height are available (mermaid-sequin ankle booties, here we come!), and no memorable look is complete without some statement accessories. City Boutique offers glitzy rhinestone cuff bracelets, foot-long waterfall earrings and shimmery metal necklaces along with an assortment of hats and headpieces. City Boutique stocks its shelves with all sizes, and its sister store Curve Junkie, which is dedicated to larger sizes, is just around the corner.
Looking Glass Designs
You'd be wrong to lump Looking Glass Designs (1917 Park Avenue, 314-621-3371) in with standard "ladies who lunch" gift shops. Instead of stocking boring "Wine Wednesday" goblets or generic "#blessed" tea towels, Looking Glass aims to elevate your life with useful, customized items that are Missouri made. Owner Andrea Heugatter fills the boutique with everything from cutting boards crafted from local wood to statement jewelry by St. Louis artists Michelle Wells and Lisa Lohman. But it's through Heugatter's own creations that gift giving truly becomes an experience. The shop owner works with customers one on one to design and personalize many of the store's gift options, creating unique pieces that are art in their own right. Have a personal catchphrase or mantra? She'll engrave it onto a metal cuff bracelet. Want a mini display of St. Louis treasures? Heugatter can create intricate replicas of the city's skyline from wood. Her glassware and stone coasters etched with family members' names or the St. Louis fleur-de-lis make for memorable gifts, and nobody will be able to turn down luxurious spa robes or upcycled baby garments with fresh monograms. The best part? Heugatter and many of her curated artists donate their proceeds to a variety of local charities and causes, helping where our city needs it most.
Dictate Never Accept (DNA)
Every store claims that it offers outstanding customer service, but men's boutique Dictate Never Accept (1308 Washington Avenue, 314-825-5757) has set an incredibly high bar. Knowing that the premium streetwear shop's customers would clamor for the recognizable PLAY line by Comme des Garçons, co-owner Nathaniel Brown III did the unthinkable this year — he flew to Paris without an appointment, convinced the fashion powerhouse to talk to him and walked away with a deal to be the St. Louis region's first brand stockist. He sold out of the entire line in just a few days. Co-owner and store manager Jesse Woolfork says that's only one of the ways DNA gives customers pieces they won't find anywhere else. The boutique carries high-quality, high-value brands that look great on the street and have luxury details like French terry lining, a high number of stitches in seams, handcrafted embroidery and fabrics with real heft. Look for the olive green varsity jacket with leather sleeves and a thick embroidered logo by TACKMA, the navy astronaut T-shirt by Billionaire Boys Club and the royal blue and green striped satin track jacket by PUMA (head there now — Woolfork says most merchandise moves quickly because of limited availability). DNA also features a range of exclusive jewelry and hat brands, including the shop's own line of STL-proud strapbacks and crowns. And if you're looking for footwear? Well, you'd be in good company; rapper Rick Ross recently stopped by for a pair of Karhu shoes.
In a rehabbed warehouse off the beaten path in the Central West End, you'll find Bowood Farms (4605 Olive Street, 314-454-6868) — a nursery, shop, cafe and studio. Bowood Farms opened just over ten years ago and has slowly expanded, most recently to include the studio, which hosts classes, events and weekly yoga. Much of what's sold in the nursery is grown on site or on the owners' farm in Clarksville, which has been in the McPheeters' family for four generations. There are herb gardens on the roof at Bowood, and a hoop house across the street, that produce fresh herbs and veggies for Bowood's Cafe Osage. They grow perennials, annuals, and also sell pumpkins and Christmas trees. In the shop itself, an airy warehouse-style space, you'll find charming paper goods, imaginative children's toys and books, artisanal soaps and lotions, plus a large variety of flowers, greens, succulents, pots, seeds and more.
It may seem odd to find botanical skincare products and handcrafted leather goods sharing space within the same business, but at Rafael Adón (1901 Park Avenue, 314-621-3784), the pairing makes perfect sense. In his Lafayette Square design studio, Rafael Adón Córdova draws upon his family's legacy of celebrating nature and craftsmanship to bring a variety of high-quality lifestyle products to market. That history is shown in Verdura Botanica, a line of luxury soaps, body lotions and bath minerals based on plant essences that Córdova's family cultivated generations ago. Today, the collection uses locally grown, sustainable ingredients from both California and the Midwest that heal as well as nourish. Verdura Botanica is wonderfully sumptuous, but Córdova's custom-made luxury leather creations are truly breathtaking. Through an extensive design process that includes client interviews about daily life, physical and digital sketches and hand-cut prototypes, Córdova creates handbags specifically tailored to a client's needs. The artist considers this type of design — which he calls "Story & Stitch" — as a form of storytelling, and he's right; few things give a more complete picture of a person than the bag they carry with them each day. A Rafael Adón bag may be a bit of a splurge (custom creations can be pricey, though he does feature pre-made bags on the studio floor), but it just might be the best gift for yourself.
Fauxgerty, the brand, represents the opposite of fast fashion, so when you shop at Fauxgerty (228 North Euclid Avenue), the boutique, you can feel good about making mindful clothing purchases, especially knowing that many garments are made right here at home. St. Louisan and designer Chrissy Fogerty and her team create incredibly cool faux leather jackets, bridging the divide between style and conscious consumerism. And because a fashionista can't live on outerwear alone, Fauxgerty also offers lovely ladylike dresses and skirts made from vintage deadstock fabrics, as well as cheeky organic cotton tops embellished with sayings like "Plant Killer" and "I'm organic."
East + West
Located in the Central West End, East + West (387 N. Euclid Avenue, 314-553-9288) brings well-made, durable menswear to St. Louis. You'll find brands here that you can't get elsewhere in the city, including the store's own line of everyday essentials. Goods on offer include denim, belts, sweaters, jackets, home fragrance, carryall bags and more. East + West first opened in Kirkwood in 2012, then moved to the Central West End and added a second store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2016. The stock of unique items does have a higher price point (a flannel shirt for $198, a beanie for $85), with a focus on quality investment pieces rather than throwaway trendy items.
Andy Foerstel and Melissa Pfeiffer's one-year-old shop in the Grove, Intoxicology (4321 Manchester Avenue, 314-833-3088), feels almost like a party — a swanky cocktail party at the kind of mid-century modern house you only wish your friends owned. It might be the vintage turntable, the cunning bar cart or all that terrific glassware. Or maybe it's just the great selection of spirits? Intoxicology explains that it's not just a liquor store but rather "a store about liquor," and sure enough, the owners offer everything from barware to bitters to bourbon — as well as friendly, knowledgeable suggestions for which up-and-coming brand you might want to sip this time. Classes and tastings frequently sell out, so keep a close eye on the shop's website (www.intoxicologystl.com) to get in on the fun before it's too late.
Lemon Gem Kitchen Goods
If you don't know your way around a kitchen, shopping for a foodie can be a little overwhelming. That's where Lemon Gem (4180 Manchester Avenue, 314-696-2744) comes in — owner Beth Styles not only stocks products that cooks at all levels need, but she also can talk you through a plethora of options at any price range. One of the only locally owned kitchen supply stores within city limits, Lemon Gem features high-quality inventory such as sustainable serving bowls and spoons by Eco Smart, cheese graters by Microplane and porcelain bakeware for casseroles and soufflés. Styles has also carved out a wonderful niche by carrying products from other small businesses, such as the Short Stack mini cookbook series and Olive & Sinclair artisan chocolate. Local artisans aren't left out; you'll find cookie cutters that celebrate Missouri and Collin Garrity's handmade wooden rolling pins among the store's wares. Of course, experiences are no-fail gifts, so consider reserving spots for you and your bestie during Lemon Gem's events. A fierce supporter of the neighborhood, Styles has collaborated with individuals and local shops on fun affairs about stocking the pantry, creating tasty mocktails and baking the best pie ever. Learning how to have fun with food really is the gift that keeps giving.Turn the page for our favorites in south city -- and the county.
SOUTH CITYUrban Matter
The charm of Urban Matter (4704 Virginia Avenue, 314-456-6941) is inescapable. Need statement jewelry for your BFF or funny gifts for your office buddy? What about upcycled children's shirts or a stylish handmade bag? With quirky home goods, kitchen trinkets and stylish accessories galore, Urban Matter is full of items that are ready to star on Instagram. Owners Mary Hennesy and Amy Schafer curate unique products that largely are sourced from St. Louis-area makers, boosting name recognition for emerging artists while feeding revenue back into the region. For the kitchen, check out graphic mugs by Carmelita Nuñez or magnetic bottle openers by Bearded Boards. Hungry? Pick up Banner Road Baking Company's handcrafted Kickstart granola, which is flavored with Sump coffee and Askinosie chocolate. One hundred percent soy wax candles from Webster Wax and Twinkle Brews — which come in upcycled craft beer bottles — keep the home smelling fresh, while a lotion bar from SeedGeeks and olive oil bar soap from Heartland Fragrance do the same for your body. Hennesy and Schafer also are investing in the community beyond the wares they sell; they've developed an adjacent small event space that's perfect for intimate weddings and pop-up dinners. With customers and clients becoming dear friends among the backyard's rustic seating and twinkling lights, Urban Matter is more than just destination shopping — it's one anchor of an up-and-coming destination district.
We're all about locally made products that support marginalized communities — especially when those products are so beautiful that they can't help but command attention. Based in McKinley Heights, Anew Nature (2201 Indiana Avenue) delivers exactly that with its handcrafted, Missouri-wood furniture pieces that literally put people to work. Founder Robert Karleskint, a stonemason and contractor by trade, designed his business to help those who have done prison time get the job skills necessary for a better future. Through an internship/apprenticeship at Anew (and, in some cases, regular employment at the furniture company), the men develop carpentry and safety know-how as well as soft skills like networking and time management, even while creating unique tables, cutting boards and more from walnut and elm sustainably harvested around the region. Because all pieces are handmade, they're unique in shape, texture and markings. A limited selection of pre-made pieces is available in the workshop and online, but Karleskint says that many customers prefer to design custom products with the team. Individuals and businesses commission Anew for shelving and conference tables, and the woodworkers even have developed major projects like a sensory motor room for children. Shop online or contact Karleskint through Anew's website form to arrange a workshop appointment.
St. Louis' newest comic book shop is still a work in progress, but as with all good superheroes, a fantastic metamorphosis is coming. Apotheosis Comics (3206 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-260-1689), which opened earlier this year in a smaller space down the street before moving to its present digs, aims to be a true gathering place for neighborhood four-color junkies through the best method possible — booze. The store is in the process of obtaining a liquor license to serve its namesake craft brew from Urban Chestnut as well as other spirited treats. And that place where you pay for your comics? That's not just a retail counter — it's a massive hand-built bar covered with icons for different versions of your favorite comics characters, including Deadpool, Superman, X-Men, the Flash and more. (Apotheosis hopes to begin serving drinks from it at a grand reopening event at the turn of the new year.) The shop is already plotting out game nights and series launches that will be even better when beer is added, but for now, shoppers can browse massive shelves of current titles and look through hefty longboxes of past treasures. Appreciating the mix of residents in its cherished South Grand neighborhood, Apotheosis staffers have curated a wide variety of LGBT-friendly and women-centered titles. Don't miss the large selection of comics by local artists and the bin of vintage figures!
Zee Bee Market
If you're looking for gifts with true impact, your best bet might be to head to Zee Bee Market (3211 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-932-1000). Founded by Peru native Julio Zegarra-Ballon, the boutique specializes in handcrafted items from around the world that directly benefit communities in need. All wares at Zee Bee are fair trade, which means that purchases support workers through living wages and safe environments. The well-made items also are eco-friendly and sustainably produced throughout their entire supply chain, from material sourcing to remnant reuse. Zee Bee's stock isn't just a status symbol for the granola set, though — everything in the boutique is cute, durable and unique. Check out the Revy messenger bags crafted from reclaimed tires and inner tubes or the WorldFinds necklaces with baubles covered with remainder fabric. The adorable Mr. Ellie Pooh notebooks and journals are made from elephant dung and recycled paper, while kids can enjoy felt and rubber shoes that look like sharks, lions and giraffes. Zee Bee also carries a wide assortment of gifts that are perfect for party hosts, including sculpted metal bowls, handmade ornaments and witty cards. The shop even carries items made exclusively for local shoppers, such as a recycled metal bowl that features the state of Missouri and reclaimed bicycle chain coat hooks arranged to spell "St. Louis." For gifts with meaningful stories and people behind them, Zee Bee is the place to go.
Everybody has that friend who completely lives. She dabbles in mysticism, goes to avant-garde art shows, brings the most glitter to every party and howls at a well-timed fart joke. This bud is the most fun to surprise with a gift, and there's no better place to shop for her (or him, or they!) than Cheap TRX (3209 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-664-1830). With an array of gifts for the home, for the heart and for sexytime, the shop has a little bit of everything. Cement your friend's status as the party fortune teller with a themed tarot card deck or desk-sized enchanting orb. Got a reader on your hands? A pair of dragon bookends carved from stone will keep their favorite novels tidy on the shelf. Don't miss local artist Paul Webb's hauntingly beautiful art, often displayed in the storefront window or among the home goods. Need something a little lighter? Eighties-themed mugs, character bobbleheads and catchphrase pins might do the trick. And if you really, really know your friend, Cheap TRX carries a huge assortment of adult items, from pipes and bongs to leatherwear and sex aids.
At Herbaria (2016 Marconi Avenue, 314-601-3904), not only will a delightfully scented bouquet of soap smells greet you upon arrival, but you also may be welcomed inside by adorable store pup Soapy. This laidback watchdog, the cleanest in town, we'd guess, keeps an eye on all 60-plus varieties of soap — from almond-green tea and biotherapy black soaps (the latter has activated charcoal!) to the traveler's choice multipurpose soap and simple vanilla variety. All lovingly handmade in-store, Herbaria soaps come in various bar sizes and gift packs. There are also soaps in luffas, soaps for shaving, soaps for warding off bugs and, yes, soaps for washing up your own furry friend. Soapy would surely approve.
South City Art Supply
When Carson Monetti and Xena Colby were in college, they would often escape to the hospitable confines of a nearby coffee shop or bookstore, where they dreamt of opening a similar place of their own. Oddly, they were living in Boston in 2015 when they decided they'd go for it in south St. Louis. Although neither is a St. Louis native, Monetti had fallen in love with the city during a short teaching stint at SLU High. The location felt like a no-brainer. "It was crazy to us that there were no art supply stores in the city," Monetti says. Later that year, they opened South City Art Supply (1926 Cherokee Street, 314-898-0001), an art-centric shop with the soul of an old-timey general store. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly and the prices are great. In addition to the expected paint brushes, sketch pads and canvas, the pair also make their own ink in-house and are launching their own line of handmade notebooks. With the Lemp studios nearby, and the Luminary just down the street, as well as countless other artists in the neighborhood, South City Art Supply has become the hyper-local headquarters for the area's creatives. Says Monetti, "This neighborhood has really sustained us."
St. Louis Hop Shop
Brothers Justin Harris and Ryan Griffin took something of a leap of faith when they quit their jobs to start a craft beer store, St. Louis Hop Shop (2600 Cherokee Street; 314-261-4011), in 2015. The north-city natives stumbled on their concept out of personal necessity, as Harris told us then. "There just wasn't anywhere in the city with a nice selection of beer. We were laughing about it — 'We should open a beer store' — but that got the ball rolling." Clearly, they were on to something: It took the shop just two years to outgrow its original storefront. Now just a block down the street in a showier corner spot, Harris and Griffin promise "good people, good beer and good times" through a wide selection of local brands and an in-house bar. They open daily at noon and stay that way until at least 9 p.m. every night but Sunday, proving that a boutique selection doesn't have to mean boutique hours.
Lauren Thorp left behind the startup scene to open the brand-new Bonboni Home & Gift Co. (2246 Klemm Street, 314-472-3457), and the meticulousness that spurred her success as an entrepreneur is now evident in the charming shop she's created in Shaw. Located in a former candy shop in an otherwise residential block, Bonboni offers a hand-selected mix of old and new, from candles to tea towels to furniture to even custom silhouettes of your child. Need another size? Thorp's storeroom — a.k.a. garage — is right behind the curtain lining one wall. Befitting its status as a destination, the shop has extremely limited hours, from just 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Plan with precision.
The Bug Store
A go-to stop for gardeners with a sense of whimsy, the Bug Store (4474 Shaw Boulevard and 113 W. Argonne, Kirkwood; 314-773-9251) offers two locations, one city and one county. The Southwest Garden shop is beloved by city dwellers for a reason: It's a surprisingly big operation, sporting a double-sized storefront along with a second floor offering home décor and the oft-visited bargain basement. The main floor is the hub of the action, with bird feeders, wind chimes and whimsical decorations that would look great in most city-sized backyards. But apartment dwellers needn't feel jealousy; there are also air plants and other terrarium supplies, as well as a cunning collection of cacti. Herbaria soaps, novelty socks and a huge collection of Christmas tree ornaments make the Bug Store the perfect place to shop for stocking stuffers, too.
Flowers and Weeds
If a dozen roses isn't your ideal flower arrangement, check out Flowers and Weeds (3201 Cherokee Street, 314-776-2887). Located on Cherokee Street, it's a quirky shop and small nursery with a DIY terrarium station, pots and vases from local vendors, dried wreaths and grab-and-go bouquets, a booming wedding business, Sam Cooke playing on the store speakers and even some taxidermy (provided by the Creaky Crow Curious Antiques). Owner Jessica Douglass started small, doing floral arrangements for weddings out of the Heirloom Room on Cherokee; she opened up Flowers and Weeds at its current location in July 2015. Now, she and her team do 80 to 90 weddings a year, while managing the shop and maintaining ten outdoor annual beds, one outdoor perennial bed and the greenhouse inside. Flowers and Weeds specializes in creative, unique floral design, which has been appreciated by everyone from brides to the Saint Louis Art Museum — Douglass won "Judge's Choice: Best in Show" at the museum's 2017 Art in Bloom event, in which florists design arrangements inspired by famous works of art. Signs reading "Black Lives Matter" and "no matter where you're from, you're our neighbor" decorate the windows. Douglass believes that since she has a platform as a small business in the city, she should use it to make a difference.
After a liquid lunch in everybody's favorite party neighborhood, Soulard, you may be looking for a way to extend your visit without continuing to imbibe — and you'll find no better spot than the colorful storefront Cathy Weldon founded more than a decade ago. A neighborhood anchor since 2004, the Porch Wine & Gift Boutique (1700 S. 9th Street, 314-436-0282) is spacious, but still manages to feel cozy, with a wide variety of gift baskets, jewelry, home and garden items (including some furniture) and Vera Bradley handbags. And if you want to keep drinking, the Porch can help with that too: a big selection of wine bottles and the occasional tasting will help keep your buzz going all the way until dinner.
Saint Fucking Louis. It's not just the full name of our patron saint, but also the phrase on STL Style's perennially best-selling T-shirt. Jeff and Randy Vines have known that you can't spell style with out STL since 2001, when the brothers realized that cool ways to represent their favorite city were seriously lacking. Like all great entrepreneurs, the Vines saw a problem and came up with a great solution. For several years, they printed their own cool and quirky STL-centric merchandise, and in 2010 opened their own store on Cherokee Street, where they have a large collection of St. Louis-specific apparel and merchandise. Walking into STL Style (3159 Cherokee Street, 314-898-0001), more commonly known as "the Style House," a visitor is inundated with city pride. The shop has no shortage of T-shirts and prints of recognizable St. Louis landmarks and points of pride, including the famous Cherokee Street clock, a Highway Farty street sign and fun jabs at the county — the "Greetings from Chesterfield" postcard featuring a photo of an empty parking lot is our personal favorite. Whether it's your street, your neighborhood or the entire city that you are proud of, you can find a way to show that pride in style at STL Style.
Step into Skif International (2008 Marconi Avenue, 314-773-4401) to browse, and the hum of knitting machines might fill your ears, while savory meal-prep aromas waft your way from the open kitchen. Part creative studio, workshop, hangout, fashion gallery and boutique, Skif offers up plenty of one-of-a-kind, hand-painted wearable works of art for the buying, along with its signature sweaters. With asymmetrical lines, funky sleeves and seams, and subdued wintry colors, Skif's single-size sweaters are both timeless and modern, providing a non-scratchy, part-cotton cold-weather option for stylish women of all ages. The shop also has become something of an incubator for St. Louis fashion: It's home to LAUNCH, a high-fashion boutique, and Project Runway alum Michael Drummond, who continues, from his space on-site, to innovate, create and "make it work." In fact, you might even get treated to an in-boutique tour by the designer himself.
Girasole Gifts and Imports
Since 2003, two couples — Marie and Richard Brand and Debbie and Joe Monolo — have been a part of what makes the Hill so special. Girasole Gifts and Imports (2103 Marconi Avenue, 314-773-7700), named for the Italian word for sunflower, is a proudly Italian boutique that features a wide variety of Italian imports, including jewelry, books, specialty food and even Italian soccer scarves. From Florentine leather goods and the famous glass art of Venice to a singing mustachioed teddy bear named Al Fredo, Girasole can give any home a touch of Italy. Though small, and charmingly cluttered, Girasole has an old-world feel that makes it welcoming to all visitors, whether they miss Italy or just want a little taste of it in south city. And if you're looking for a new home, the shop also sells the popular St. Joseph Home Sales Kit. Just bury it in your front yard and your home is as good as sold.
Alembika. Boheme. Lauren Vidal. Do these names ring a bell? They certainly do for shoppers at Launch (2008 Marconi Avenue, 314-325-6785), which is quickly becoming the high-fashion destination in St. Louis. Owner Lia Glynias returned to St. Louis in 2015 after twelve years in New York City's fashion industry. Upon her return, Glynias was asked to put together a fashion pop-up for St. Louis Design Week. Skif designer Nina Ganci then encouraged Glynias to open a shop of her own in Skif's building. At Launch, shoppers are encouraged to try something outside of their comfort zone. "We want this to be a fun and interesting place," Glynias says. This can mean trying on something from an Israeli designer, a Finnish one or one featured on Project Runway. The names on the labels aren't the only important thing about the items at Launch. Glynias is committed to featuring designers who care as much as she does about ethical manufacturing and sustainability. "I want you to find what you need when you come in, and if you decide to look deeper — at the quality or the design or the manufacturing — you'll feel proud to be a Launch customer."
Where can you buy a vintage basketball goal, a life-size nativity scene and fifteen used toilets, and do it for a good cause? Refab, of course! A nonprofit "deconstruction and refabrication" store just a few blocks from both Cherokee Street and South Grand, Refab (3130 Gravois Avenue, 314-357-1392) not only features one of the most interesting collections of items ever assembled in one shop, but does so in partnership with the St. Patrick Center downtown to provide on-the-job training and job placement for our city's homeless residents. Founder Eric Schwarz was inspired to start Refab in 2012 while working for Habitat for Humanity, where he saw great items being pulled out of old buildings and tossed into the garbage. Walking through Refab can be overwhelming at first, as its warehouse space is filled (in some places to the ceiling) with interesting items, all pulled from homes and buildings in St. Louis. They range from the mundane — bathtubs, cabinets, desks — to the unique. Once, after deconstructing a church, Schwarz's team found dozens of large papier-mâché angels, which he promptly put on display at Refab. "We like to keep it weird," he says. It isn't just a fact but, for Refab, something of an unofficial slogan.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY
We all have a fancy friend, a girl whose errand-running ensembles and casual-wear clothes look more put together than you do on your best day. Her home, whether it's the holiday season or not, looks Insta-perfect. And her jewelry and accessories are consistently and stunningly on point. Well, we have news for you: That woman shops at Lusso (165 Carondelet Plaza, Clayton; 314-725-7205). Gorgeous fresh flowers help set the tasteful mood at this sister-owned shop. Browse stylish Jonathan Adler home décor, memorable Alexis Bittar and Chan Luu jewelry, luxe White + Warren cashmere and St. Louisan Emily Brady Koplar's chic Wai Ming tops and dresses — all alongside items by other gifted locals, cute Kate Spade goodies, darling trays, cards, candles, fragrances and much more. It's like a smart little department store, heavy on the curation and easy on the overwhelming factor.
Sole and Blues
Sole and Blues Designer Boutique (6633 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-863-3600) has been located at various locations in the Loop longer than many neighborhood denizens have been alive. Once upon a time, this shop had a strong focus on shoes and denim, hence the name, but nowadays the boutique places a more egalitarian emphasis on clothing and accessorizing the entire body, while still keeping your footwear fashionable and your jeans stylish. With darling dresses, comfy tops and unique jewelry for women, Sole and Blues also offers classic casual clothes for men and St. Louis-themed shirts for both sets of shoppers. Keep an eye out for the sales here, and for those who are westward focused, there's a St. Charles location (1650 Beale Street, Suite 162, St. Charles; 636-757-3711) as well.
When you buy something at Plowsharing Crafts (three locations, including 6271 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-863-3723), you're really giving two gifts — one to your recipient (whether that's you or someone else) and one to the person or people who helped create the item you've purchased. Plowsharing's three local fair-trade shops offer opportunities for artisans the world over to share their talents and get paid a fair wage while doing so. Unique kitchenware and linens will spruce up any table, while ornaments abound for adorning your tree. Plus, there are plenty of year-round décor items, trinket boxes, jewelry, handmade cards, bags and more, some of which also keep an eye toward upcycling reusable materials and keeping them out of landfills.
Many great startup stories begin in a garage. Kate Bethel's began in her basement. Several years ago she started making soap there for fun. After wowing guests at her wedding with her fortune-cookie-inspired soaps, she began taking orders. In 2007, after being laid off from her job, she decided to lean in and opened her storefront in downtown Maplewood. Ten years later, handmade soaps are only one of the many things you can find in her wonderfully fragrant shop Maven (7290 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-449-6900) — today she offers a wide variety of bath and body products, as well as handmade candles. Want to try your hand at soap making? Maven offers classes as well. Ditch that withered bar of big-brand soap in your bathroom and treat yourself to Bethel's Lavender Basil or Bamboo Eucalyptus.
If you've been wondering where can you find a onesie with a pattern of sunny-side-up eggs or a pair of high-top Vans for your baby, head to City Sprouts (8807 Ladue Rd, Clayton; 314-726-9611). Owner Molly Curlee got her start in retail in high school and was just nineteen when she and her sister took over the Phoenix Rising boutique in the Loop, which their parents had founded. Years later, when she had her first child, a girl, Curlee grew frustrated with the choices available for baby clothes and furniture. "Everything was pink," she says with a laugh. That led to stocking better baby products at Phoenix Rising and eventually, in 2005, a standalone kid-centric store down the street. City Sprouts moved to its location off Ladue Road in Clayton about three years ago. Curlee says, "We needed to downsize — we used to sell strollers and car seats, and we became a showroom where people would come check out the gear and then order it for a cheaper price on Amazon." Now the shop sells specialty clothing and toys — unique puzzles, books and games that you won't find elsewhere in St. Louis, plus clothing from Tea Collection and other brands offering cute, quirky, quality children's clothing. It also carries T-shirts and onesies from local companies STL Style and Tiny Little Monster. And while there is some pink and blue at City Sprouts, Curlee remains true to her original vision: You'll find a range of other colors as well.
Nearly everyone's life could be improved by a really good leather tote or satchel. And we're not talking about some basic brand-name bag with a big price tag or a stale, mass-produced fast-fashion snooze-fest. We mean a stylishly classic, incredibly sturdy, individually crafted carryall, preferably one that's skillfully made by hands that have seen more leather than a cow. At Sole Survivor (7312 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-932-1475), where everything is created in-store, plenty of beautiful handmade bags fit this last description. Colors and types vary, but these timeless pieces will stay with you awhile. This shop not only has work bags, but also purses of all sizes, belts, wallets, keychains and more, including cool sculptural leather bowl-type vessels, perfectly on point for the artsy person who has everything.
Dot Dot Dash
A charming De Mun mainstay, this cozy pocket-size boutique packs a lot of friendly service and fashion inside, without feeling overwhelming or crowded. At Dot Dot Dash (736 De Mun Avenue, Clayton; 314-862-1962), expect to find comfortably stylish, but not outrageously priced, versatile women's wear and handbags geared toward those who prefer a casual West Coast aesthetic. In addition to clothes, the shop carries gifts, too — cute kitchen stuff, pretty jewelry, puffer scarves, quirky socks and more — but its name does signal "u" in Morse code, so it's understandable if you just keep all of your purchases for yourself!
OSO: a Style Lab
One-year-old OSO: a style lab (6321 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-467-0436) offers a cheeky mix of high and low at what often proves to be a surprisingly reasonable price point. Cocktail dresses, jackets and T-shirts share the spare, stylish space with clever, often Japanese-inspired tchotchkes that have caught the eye of co-owners Jen Rieger and Chris Rubin de la Borballa: everything from enamel pins to top-notch pencils to desktop metallic sculptures that look just like Jeff Koons' balloon dog. It's a little piece of Abbot Kinney in the heart of the Loop, and the perfect place to shop for the cool kid on your list.
There's a reason the Delmar Loop's cheeky gift shop, Phoenix Rising (6331 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-862-0609), has survived more than two decades of change on the street, winning countless Best of St. Louis awards in the process: Co-owner Carrie Drda (she and sister Molly Curlee also own kids' offshoot City Sprouts) has one of the best eyes in the business. It's simply impossible to peruse the shop's small but carefully curated collection without finding the perfect gift — often one you would have never considered until she stocked it. No, there's nothing you or your friends need here, but there's surely a whole lot you'll want. From sassy baby onesies to funny books to even a series of cleverly printed aprons, the items will make you laugh out loud. Once you've recovered, head over to the jewelry counter for a surprisingly sophisticated collection, some of it by local artisans.
Tiny Little Monster
When Sloan Coleman and Jenny Rearick started their custom printing business, Tiny Little Monster (7207 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-449-6900), in 2010, they wanted to do things differently. They didn't want any design to be cookie-cutter, and even designs submitted by a customer would be given 30 minutes of free polishing by a professional graphic designer. Seven years later, they are one of the leaders in custom print design in the city. Whether it's a custom T-shirt, can koozie or pennant, Coleman and Rearick go the extra mile to make the design as good as it can be. Outside of their custom printing business, you can find lots of silly items and gifts in their Maplewood storefront, from Missouri-proud "MO' Please" koozies for adults to incredibly cute St. Louis-inspired T-shirts for the kids.
The newest shop to open in Webster Groves, Civil Alchemy (8154 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves; 314-801-7577) comes with an impressive pedigree: Owner Kelley Hall-Barr also founded K. Hall Studios, a home fragrance and personal care goods store with outlets in Brentwood and Frontenac. Hall-Barr's powers of curation are evident in this eclectic shop — she offers everything from cleaning products to beer to outdoor gear, which she's personally tested. There's even a flower bar, where you can make your own bouquet or pick a ready-made one. Hall-Barr has a simple way to describe her vision. "It's everything you need to have a party," she notes, from the food and drink you offer to the pottery you serve it on to the shirt (and earrings) you wear to shine as a hostess.
Founded by Beth Morris and Carolyn Burghoff, the four outlets and online site that comprise Paperdolls (multiple locations including 110 E. Jefferson Avenue, Kirkwood; 314-965-3655) bring contemporary clothing to women of all ages. The boutique first opened on Washington Avenue in 2005, moved to Kirkwood in 2008, and then expanded to Ballwin, University City and Des Peres. Paperdolls offers a large selection of apparel, jewelry and accessories, from trendy dresses for a fun night out to casual layers for running around town. The shop carries some designer labels, but the majority of the merchandise is in the $50 to $60 range. The owners travel often to fashion shows in Las Vegas, New York and LA to source the latest trends. A number of accessories reflect the store's sense of humor. If you're looking for a card that says "another f*ing birthday" or a perhaps too-honest "99 percent happy for you" greeting card, or you need a coffee mug to inspire you to "get sh*t done," this is the place. The store also carries some local brands supporting city pride like Maison Jewelry, which offers "314" and "636" necklaces representing the St. Louis area codes, and Aviate, which sells STL-embroidered baseball caps.
If you've browsed local boutiques, you might have experienced a bit of sticker shock compared to the chain stores at the mall — but not at Leopard Boutique (20 Allen Avenue #100, Webster Groves; 314-961-3220). Its goal is to make unique, trendy clothes and jewelry more accessible to women. The shop specializes in dresses, tops and denim but offers a variety of beauty products, jewelry and gifts as well. Owner Rachel Sauter opened Leopard Boutique in 2012 and has since added a second location in St. Charles (1650 Beale Street, St. Charles; 636-757-3919) plus an online store, which offers free shipping for orders over $50 or free in-store pickup for items you purchase online. Leopard Boutique brings in new items each week, so there's always something fresh to shop. Its current selection of fall trends includes off-the-shoulder sweaters, camo joggers, lace-up flats and over-the-knee boots. Brands carried include Steven by Steve Madden, Chinese Laundry, Z Supply, Ban.do, Bobeau and Kut from the Kloth.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.