Talk of the Towns: 10.7.20
Another one bites the dust, but not entirely because of the pandemic. Actually, Tom’s Bar & Grill in the CWE is going to pot. Literally. The gastropub at Euclid and Forest Park Parkway is out, Holistic Missouri is in—the space will flourish as a medical marijuana dispensary. And it will begin dispensing medical marijuana … sometime in the not-too-distant future. You can still visit an Illinois dispensary to have that prescription filled. Tom’s will be missed by many. It was there for, like, forever. (Well, since 1976, at any rate. For a long time it had one of the only parking lots you could sneak into if you had no fear of being towed. Students, I hear, used to take their chances.) Meanwhile, way out west, Jason’s Deli, a Texas-based fast-food chain, closed its Chesterfield location last Wednesday (Sept. 30). The restaurant had been known for its self-serve salad bar, which the pandemic put the kibosh on. The location in Chesterfield Valley was Jason’s last stand in the metro; the Kirkwood deli went dark in June. But relax, everyone—and not only because you might be able to have a doctor write you a ’scrip for weed to, I don’t know, alleviate stress or keep that dang eyelid from twitching. Soon, for real. Although ‘pot shops’ are not open here quite yet, delicatessens are still very much a thing, even though not so much like all over NYC where you can get a pastrami on rye, slathered in Gulden’s mustard, with a Dr. Brown’s cream soda. Real delis were once scattered here, there and everywhere throughout the metro, too. There are still a whole bunch of McAlister’s Deli locations in town. As to whether they’re real delis, who’s to say? But for warm comfort food, I’m telling you, you could do a whole heck of a lot worse.
Does anybody really know what time it is? It doesn’t matter whether you’re on Eastern, Central or Pacific Time, and I’m pretty sure there’s one more time zone in the mountains somewhere. Could be you’ve been living on Tulsa Time. Since March, I venture to say, we’ve all been living in this surreal time zone: Pandemic Time. Maybe it’s borrowed time, but let’s hope not. It’s sure not easy to keep track, especially if you’re not on a traditional 9-to-5 schedule where you actually have to show up at an office to work for a requisite number of hours, then drive home at the appointed hour, along with a whole lot of other folks doing the same thing. Traffic sure was light today, you may idly think to yourself, or maybe you’re one of those people wired to complain about traffic no matter what it’s really like out there. To be sure, these days there can’t be as many people announcing, “Hi, honey, I’m home.” For one thing, they didn’t come from very far, because they were just working from another computer elsewhere in the house. I have an answer for my wife, whenever she asks what day it is, which is several times a day: Today is Thursday. “No,” she responds, “what’s the date?” Why, it’s the 38th of April. That makes absolutely no sense, of course, which is precisely the point. But somehow, which may only be explained by science fiction, it always seems to be Thursday around here.
It’s always been a balancing act out in St. Charles. During the day, the cobblestoned section of Main Street is a quaint collection of unique shops and restaurants that’s easy to walk and fun to explore. That’s when it’s all nice and Dr. Jekyll. But after dark is when things can get ugly. Since bars here close later than in other metro municipalities, Mr. Hyde roams the street. Many attempts have been made over the years to strike a compromise between neighbors and local business interests that serve alcohol—drunks wobble around town to yell, fight, relieve themselves in public, and engage in other base behaviors that would make your kindest elderly aunt blush, then load up the double-barrel. Many of them are obviously Illinaliens, which my father, who once lived in the Land of Lincoln, tended to call some of his fellow citizens because he thought ‘hoosiers’ was just an insult to Indiana. Of course, many problems stem from ruffians right at home in that western county, although many drunks drive across the Missouri all the way from downtown St. Louis, Soulard, Westport or wherever because of stricter coronavirus restrictions or an earlier ‘last call.’ Well, it seems the mayor of St. Charles has arrived at another, certainly temporary, solution. (My father would call this a ‘Band-Aid.’) “Music activities” such as DJs and dancing—which city authorities, not us, put inside quotation marks—will be restricted at bars and restaurants for several blocks along Main. Has St. Chuck gone all religious on us? Well, not really. Bars won’t close any earlier. The drunks will still get just as drunk. But dancing and “music activities?” Seems like they’re going after a symptom, not the disease.
The Union is on the march—Union Studio, that is. There’s no army here, unless you consider 125-some artists and artisans to be soldiers for a cause: St. Louis! Mary Beth Bussen, who co-founded the shop in the city’s Botanical Heights neighborhood about six and a half years ago, has headed west with a coterie of creative folks to open a second location in Webster Groves, at 8137 Big Bend Blvd. She was gracious enough to take time out for a chat last week as she was putting the finishing touches on the interior, hanging fine art and making sure everything was just so for the opening … scheduled for today (Wednesday, Oct. 7). She’s delighted to have a vast wall space for display, not to mention an opportunity to bring more metro arts-and-crafts people into the fold. Oh yeah—clients, too. “We’re pleased to be able to allow more people access to the work,” Bussen says. ‘We’ includes her business partner, Sarah Kelley (at left in photo; Bussen is at right). Bussen says her space in the city originally was meant to be a workroom for her textile projects, primarily making children’s clothes. A licensed attorney, after practicing law for a while she went off on a few tangents—first staying home a few years after starting a family. She then dedicated herself to transforming the original workspace, 1605 Tower Grove Ave., into a showplace and emporium exclusively for St. Louisans who work with leather and fabrics; men and women who make jewelry, candles and other housewares; who paint; who are ceramicists; who craft greeting cards—you name it. The building itself has seen several different lifetimes, Bussen notes. “It’s kind of a hodge-podge!” It was a print shop, a gas station, a diner; you can still see the spots on the floor where stools once were attached. If that seems eclectic and unexpected, more’s the better—so are the wares you’ll find there. Although like everyone else, Bussen and Kelley were as prepared for a pandemic as an asteroid impact, they’ve used the time wisely, planning for the exciting new developments while making adjustments to respond to mandates as well as the reality on the street. No more than four people are allowed in the studio at the same time; masks and social distancing are a must. Plus, there’s a multipurpose walk-up window on one side of the Tower Grove studio. It’s perfect for picking up orders, to be sure, but is also a place for consultation on, say, StL-themed gift baskets. And key to Union Studio’s mission is community focus: “It’s time now to open the door wider, to share what we have.” Customers can buy items at a reduced price that are “donated to our community organization partners who serve our neighbors starting new homes, including immigrants, refugees, those escaping domestic violence and people transitioning out of homelessness.” At this writing, one organization is a beneficiary: Home Sweet Home, homesweethomestl.org. All that said, what’s our favorite item at Union Studio … this week? OK, that’s not fair. Items, plural? We don’t have the square footage on this page. Well, then—what tickles your fancy? Visit stlunionstudio.com.