Friday, March 21, 2014

Still Dreaming After All These Years

There are 3 empty buildings in my neck of the woods that all need re-purposing and, as usual…I have ideas.  I don't have resources, but I am full of IDEAS!  

The first building is a stone's throw from my living quarters.  The longtime neighborhood grocery store, Johnny's Market, went out of business this past year after 68 years on the corner of Sappington and Gravois.  I often walk by and peer in the windows, imagining how I would transform the space...were I independently wealthy, that is.   I would start by laying some old dark wood floors, then I would hang miles of chocolate brown velvet, adorn it with relics of days gone by in St. Louis - architectural elements, art work, photographs -  all from our history, then I would build a stage shrouded in miles of milk chocolate velvet.  I'd surround the perimeter with dining tables and a couple of bars. And then?  Then I'd throw parties.  

Some nights it would be a big band-swing-rockabilly dance hall…unpretentious, not too snazzy but a step up from the Concord Farmer's Club…and designed to draw a more diverse (AKA: younger) crowd.

Some nights it would be a concert venue featuring roots music - from locals whenever possible, such as The Thin Dimes, Michael & Ryan, Pokey LaFarge, The Blevins, etc. - but also from ANY amazing, small-time (or big-time) artists who were willing to come, local or not. 

Other times it would serve as a banquet hall, hosting  both corporate and private events.  Fabulous, classy events.

The second building is the old Growlers in Sunset Hills.  What an unbelievable story that is.  In a matter of months, they went from being perpetually crazy-crowded, to a complete shut-down.  I have my own theories about why. I know they cite an expired lease and the economy, but after 18 years of success you close up because a lease expires?  Much less popular restaurants nearby have survived the economic downturn.  It's not exactly rocket science.  It was a branding issue.  They changed who they were.  They reduced their beer offerings by 2/3,  and, in a bizarre move, "closed" the front entrance, they banned smoking on their outdoor patio, but their biggest error was the menu change.  Now…I never loved their food, but I had grown accustomed to it.  I at least knew what to expect.  When I saw the new menu, I was excited because they actually added some much more up-to-date, great sounding options.  Problem was…the food not only wasn't great…it was subpar, and much worse than before.

Anyway,  I like the idea of resurrecting the place as less of a pub and more of a fine-dining experience.  Not snooty with exorbitant prices, but slightly upscale food in a rustic setting.   Not a Flemmings', or Kreiss', or Niche kind of upscale…just a place that offers exquisitely-prepared-foods accompanied by fine libations, served by down-to-earth staff, in a warm surrounding. 

The third building offers the greatest potential for becoming a reality.  Remember that old Imo's at the top of Watson and Old Sappington?  They had occupied that place as long as I can remember until a couple years ago.  It opened soon afterwards as Puricelli's Deli.  I never went, but heard it was less-than-stellar in both the food and service sectors.  

This place is small, so it feels "doable" to me.  I know exactly how I would fix up the exterior, remodel the interior, and what the menu would be.  I even know who my first employee would be…and probably my second and third too!  I've gone as far as naming this one.  It would be called Teasdale's…after the St. Louis poet, Sara Teasdale.  

So…if you know any crazies out there who are looking to risk some of their hard-earned cash on a novice restaurant owner,   lemme know, eh?  In the meantime…I'll dream on.  Dreams are usually better than the reality anyway.  Right?  Usually...

No comments: