Talk of the Towns: 1.8.20
tower grove south
No jinx can stop the indefatigable Jeff Gerhardt (pictured at top), who already has transformed one nightmarishly unlucky corner into a successful bicycle shop and java joint, Cursed Bikes and Coffee. That would be at Jackson and Pershing avenues in U. City, where any number of pretty good to fine restaurants have failed utterly, one after another. Maybe the in-our-face name has helped, but no doubt the shop’s success is enhanced by its next-door neighbor, Taco Buddha. It’s perfect for those who crave more than a great cuppa joe, a superior pastry and maybe a banana. Cursed has been doing just fine, thank you, since it opened three years ago, such that Gerhardt has turned his energies toward reviving another languishing corner: Morgan Ford Road and Arsenal Street in Tower Grove South. Morgan Ford meets its northern end at the park, and there is a choice of transportation at the southeastern and southwestern corners. One is a small but tidy used car lot. (Did we see a 1974 Yugo there? Maybe it was a Fit, a Fiat or Mini Cooper.) The other was A&M Bicycle, which had been at 4282 Arsenal St. for decades before closing last month. Its online reviews were mixed, more to the negative, which Gerhardt intends to change by April, when he’ll open a remodeled store with the same name. There’ll also be a café, which will serve Cursed custom-blended coffees, “because it’s about expanding the brand,” Gerhardt says. He has yet to suss out any other menu ideas. Meanwhile, April should be great for riding your bike in Tower Grove Park, now that all of the Lime Bikes are gone and helmet-free lunatics instead zip without warning from sidewalk to street and back on green electric scooters. The sensible among us may choose to rent bicycles at A&M, which no doubt will be an eye-catcher, as Gerhardt also has training as an architect. Meanwhile, back in U. City, his teenage daughter Mia may be ringing up your drink since Haley, once your friendly barista, has been tapped as manager of the new café. It will occupy a now-vacant space just a few spoked-wheel rotations to the east of A&M. Jeff will continue to float, that is, ride a bicycle, from one store to the other, as needed. “It’s only a 35-minute trip,” he says with a shrug.
To help us ring in the New Year, let’s celebrate our fine new MLS team, the St. Louis, uh, Whatchamacallits. Maybe the soccer team will have an actual official name before its $250 million stadium is completed. Quick segue to the St. Louis Battlehawks, our new XFL team currently training for games starting Feb. 9 against the Dallas Renegades; the first home game is Feb. 23 at The Dome against the New York Guardians. Maybe it’s about time to start describing, in detail, just what a Battlehawk is. It’s the legendary WWII fighter aircraft designed and built by McDonnell Aircraft, of course, that helped keep the skies over England clear of Nazi pilots. Right? Wrong. There was no such thing. We were just pulling your leg. You don’t know what a Battlehawk is either? Well, let’s ask the Google Machine. Wow! The results are already in, and there are two: One is a brutal-looking dude in a video game, and the other is a military helicopter. We’ll cut to the chase here: Battlehawks is a supremely stupid name—especially when you realize that another alternative was the St. Louis Archers! For real. The silhouette of a warrior with bow at full draw would have been a cool logo, and may even have been designed to be inoffensive as far as political correctness goes. But wait! We have an Arch right here in St. Louis! Did the knuckleheads brainstorming names not know that? It must have been clue-deficient millennials piled into a conference room on the 82nd floor of a NYC office building. Possible slogans, now useless? Don’t get me started. Oh, OK. How about chanting “Bullseye!” after every score? If this seems like a little thing, that’s exactly the problem here. It’s just another example of the bar being raised for St. Louis, and of St. Louisans strolling beneath it without fear of bumping their heads.
The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that the retail juggernaut that is Chesterfield must continue to share its hefty sales tax earnings with other municipalities in the county—a decision, ironically, that came down on Christmas Eve. In 2014, the city filed a suit claiming that sharing its sales tax proceeds in a ‘pool’ to be distributed among the county’s umpteen municipalities was unconstitutional. But the county itself—along with larger cities including Ballwin, Florissant, U. City and Webster Groves—prevailed over Chesterfield, a relative upstart municipality, having only been incorporated in 1988. (The ‘pool’ law was enacted in 1977.) Much of the city’s 33-some square miles are dedicated to shopping centers, particularly in The Valley aka Gumbo Flats, where there is arguably the world’s longest strip center in Chesterfield Commons and two, count ’em, two outlet malls. The winning argument, essentially, comes down to geography vis-à-vis number of consumers. On any given day, you couldn’t shoehorn Chesterfield shoppers into all of the other cities we’ve mentioned put together—to begin with, where would they park? To wit: Although Chesterfield, Webster Groves, U. City et al. have enviable residential areas, the latter two don’t have the floodplain available to roll out millions upon millions of square feet of retail space, the next 500-year flood be damned. And that’s leaving out Chesterfield Mall, which may be mostly empty today, but surely will generate plenty more sales tax sooner or later.
The local chapter of Women in Focus, an organization of female photographers who support and promote the photographic arts, is staging an exhibit and sale Jan. 12 to Feb. 21 at The Gallery Within. There will be an opening reception at 4 p.m. Jan. 12 at the gallery, which is located in Webster Groves Christian Church on Lockwood Avenue. The reception presents photography buffs an opportunity to enjoy refreshments and rub elbows with the women artists whose work will be available at discounted prices. The World Around Us is the all-encompassing title of the show, which demonstrates just what about the planet, micro and macro, caught the eye of the participating females behind the lens. More than a dozen photographers will have about 50 works on display. Some will soar like the mating pair of bald eagles pictured below, and others will involve subjects that stay put: There should be landscapes and still-life. One of the members shoots astrophotography, which must be seen to be fully appreciated. Let’s just say it’s out of this world.
Any painting starts with a drawing. One may imagine it’s like the skeleton. “If the foundation of a house isn’t built well, everything crumbles on top of it,” says Ryan Greis, who has illustrated for publications ranging from our esteemed metro daily to St. Louis Magazine and the RFT. Greis operates Drawn Studio, which recently moved from the CWE to Eureka. The name has two meanings: As much as he loves drawing, he hopes others are drawn to it. Greis teaches the fundamentals of drawing, of form, of movement. His purpose? To help young people, typically under 17, get comfortable with pencils, charcoal and other media. Some may decide on drawing as another skill to pick up in middle or high school—then, perhaps, to concentrate on careers as working artists. Greis, who works full-time in marketing with the software development firm Dirxion, has a flexible schedule, but he knows his students are busy with school, homework and sports. A certain amount of freedom allows him to schedule evening classes, workshops and even special weekend sessions at the Saint Louis Art Museum called ‘Mornings at the Museum,’ where students explore with pencils and pads—of newsprint. Most drawings are timed: as short as 20 seconds or as long as 20 minutes.
A working artist, whether full-time or freelance, must meet strict deadlines. Yes, kids, even comic books have deadlines. So, there’s not much doodling here; that’s for corporate meetings that never seem to end. Working artists must absorb certain principles so they can get things done A.) well, and B.) in a hurry. The newsprint? “This is all about practicing,” Greis says. “I repeat, over and over, ‘Look for the big, dumb shapes!’” He smiles. “I’ve never been completely satisfied with anything I’ve done.” Greis grew up across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, where people halfway feigned amazement that Kentucky folks wore shoes. On his studio wall is a goofy face, the portrait of an imaginary yahoo with a ratty hat, wide gaps between his teeth and a long nose resembling a pumpkin stem. It looks just a little too, well, real. Yes, Greis can poke fun at himself, but he’s serious about his art and teaching it to students. He used to spend hours on Saturdays at the Cincinnati Art Museum with pad and pencil, not to copy, but “to learn from the 400- to 500-year-old masters.” Now you can head westward to learn from a 46-year-old master! Visit drawn.studio.com.
Photo: Bill Barrett