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The RFT's 2016 Guide to Shopping Local in St. Louis 

We gave five shoppers $100 each. Here's what they found in Soulard, the CWE, Downtown, South Grand and Cherokee

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click to enlarge Marie-Aimee Abizera shops at Zee Bee Market. - PHOTO BY HOLLY RAVAZZOLO
  • PHOTO BY HOLLY RAVAZZOLO
  • Marie-Aimee Abizera shops at Zee Bee Market.

Destination: South Grand

Shopper: Marie-Aimee Abizera, executive director of Missouri Immigration and Refugee Advocates

My fiance and I are new to town — he's a cardiology fellow at Saint Louis University — so Tower Grove East is the only place we've lived in St. Louis. We keep joking that if we have to stay here longer after he's done with training, this would be where we want to settle. Mostly because we're both runners, and it's definitely a runner's paradise with Tower Grove Park two streets down from us. Plus, the restaurants on Grand are awesome. You've literally got everything from Starbucks to Pho Grand. It doesn't get better than that.

For my shopping trip, I went to Zee Bee Market (3211 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-932-1000). I had strolled in there before, just 'cause I'm always attracted to fair trade stores. But I was also looking for something specific — we don't have a pantry in our apartment, so I'm always looking for creative ways to handle storage. They have these baskets from West Africa that I really wanted to be able to use for things like onions and potatoes.

click to enlarge "I like hats, and I love accessories of any kind. That's my weakness." - PHOTO BY HOLLY RAVAZZOLO
  • PHOTO BY HOLLY RAVAZZOLO
  • "I like hats, and I love accessories of any kind. That's my weakness."

Then I got a winter hat as well. Mostly because in Nashville, where I moved from, winter's not really bad. So everybody's been telling me to prepare for winter here. I wanted wool, and more of a Panama hat as opposed to a beanie. I like hats, and I love accessories of any kind. That's my weakness. I found it; it was perfect, it was really perfect.

We'd met at 4:30; I had skipped lunch in order to get out of work early. So the second stop was Cafe Mochi (3221 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-773-5000). It's right on Grand, and they have happy hour for their sushi rolls from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., I believe. So we went there, and I pigged out on three rolls. The "Godzilla" roll, which is insanely delicious, spicy tuna, and one of the specialty rolls. But the Godzilla is my favorite. That was my first time there, and I think I've been back twice already since then.

Then we walked around. There's a furniture store that I really, really like, Rocket Century (3189 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-875-0705). They always have really cool pieces. I don't think of it as vintage — to me they're more than vintage. They remind me of the furniture my parents had growing up in Africa. Very cool and simple, yet really statement pieces.

They had this — I don't even know what to call it. It's almost like a turntable. Oh, that was out of this world. It was so cool, one of those pieces you don't get to see that often. Growing up, my dad had one of those, so I'm just a little bit nostalgic. I think that's why I really really want one. But you can't buy anything in there for less than $100, so it was just eye-shopping.

I think the South Grand area is really the quintessential example of what immigrants bring to this country. Not to be political, but as a person who came into this country as an immigrant, the food and the culture that other immigrants have brought are just ridiculously good. It's not that these immigrants are just benefiting off of the American society. The American society also gets to benefit off of them. It's a two-way street.

— as told to Katelyn Mae Petrin

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