These 5 St. Louis Shops Are Surviving -- and Thriving -- in the Age of Amazon 

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"We wanted to create a space where people connect to nature," says Tammy Behm of Maypop Coffee and Garden Shop. - TOM HELLAUER
  • TOM HELLAUER
  • "We wanted to create a space where people connect to nature," says Tammy Behm of Maypop Coffee and Garden Shop.

The Oasis
Maypop Coffee and Garden Shop

In some ways, Maypop Coffee and Garden Shop (803 Marshall Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-764-2140) has an easier sell than other retailers trying to make it in a digital world. Who wants to buy living and breathing plants online?

But the women behind this new shop aren't taking their advantages for granted. They're doing everything they can to give customers the feeling of having stepped almost immediately into a calm and tranquil natural oasis. So much so, in fact, that your visit may leave you likely to forget the names Amazon and PayPal. You may even forget the existence of the Internet altogether.

Opened earlier this year, Maypop is tucked into an easy-to-miss blip of a commercial district with general-store vibes in a residential neighborhood in northeast Webster Groves. An artful blend of caffeine, pastries, horticulture and occasional alcohol, Maypop is a café cocooned by a nursery, a greenhouse that feels at once enormous and cozy, and a thoughtfully restored 1897 classic brick home with bourbon-hued hardwoods, a fireplace and deep windowsills — all of it arranged (in a way that feels unarranged) on a large corner lot. The name stems from passiflora incarnata, a hardy perennial vine that's considered a common wildflower in the southern U.S.

The love child of entrepreneur-owner Tammy Behm and her two-woman brain trust, Laura Caldie and Laura Tetley, Maypop holds as a primary goal giving visitors an opportunity to connect with nature.

Those connections begin with plants. "As humans, we naturally bond with other things that have life in them, that grow," Behm says. Behm subscribes to the theory that being surrounded by growing things constitutes a homecoming of sorts, a return to an earlier period on the evolutionary calendar. "We evolved in natural settings, but now most of us live in cities," she says. "So we wanted to create a space where people connect to nature."

Maypop keeps customers coming back with plenty of events and regular happy hours. - TOM HELLAUER
  • TOM HELLAUER
  • Maypop keeps customers coming back with plenty of events and regular happy hours.

Mimicking nature, the plants at Maypop are not arranged in neat rows with squared corners.

They're clustered based on function, with a free-form look and feel. Even the rectangular greenhouse has a circular, flowing vibe. With entrances on each of its four sides and large openings in the roof, it's passively heated and cooled, eliminating machine noise and freeing the ear to listen instead to birds, frogs and the crunching of gravel underfoot — Behm selected it because it drains well, but now she reveres its sensory-engaging sound.

But plant-inspired engagement is only the beginning. Inside the shop are drinks from St. Louis favorites Blueprint Coffee and Big Heart Tea Co. and pastries from Whisk. Beyond the daily offerings, Behm & Co. are doing their best to give you plenty of reasons to stop by (and maybe buy something while you're there). Happy hour begins every Wednesday at 4 p.m., and starting Thanksgiving weekend, the holiday season kicks off with trees for sale (proceeds to the local Boy Scouts troop), classes and workshops. On the evening of December 7, Maypop will welcome former Nixta chef Tello Carreón for a tasting event. Tickets, available through Maypop's website, are $50.

Behm is beyond pleased with customer turnout thus far. Even though construction delays prevented Maypop from opening at the start of the gardening industry's most lucrative season — spring — she says the shop is thriving, financially and otherwise. "It's amazing how much support we've received from customers across St. Louis who are committed to local, independent businesses," she says. "We've really connected with a lot of people."

Many options for expanding food and drink offerings are under consideration, but for now Behm remains focused on providing customers with a nourishing experience. "A visit to Maypop can be as simple or have as much depth as you want," she says. "My hope is that we've created an environment you'll want to return to."
—Patrick Collins

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April 1, 2020

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