On July 3, 2019, students in the Skandalaris Summer Internship Program took a guided tour of St. Louis’ Cherokee Street neighborhood. Located on the southside of St. Louis city, Cherokee is a one-mile stretch of street between Gravois and Lemp Avenues. The area represents the vibrant startup community in St. Louis and is defined by its culture which includes small businesses, restaurants, and breweries.
The first stop on the tour was Kalbi Taco Shack, where owner Sue Wong-Shackelford shared Cherokee Street’s history and her journey to becoming a restaurateur. She discussed the street’s previous moniker “Antique Row”, a name that traces back to the numerous antique stores that popped up in the 1970s. Wong-Shackelford’s own journey to Cherokee Street began in antiques. After working with her parents in the culinary field, she came to Cherokee street to sell antiques from her estate liquidation business. She eventually joined her daughters to open a restaurant featuring their favorite cuisines. Kalbi Taco Shack is in its third year of business and the family loves the area and the support they receive. When City Foundry STL launches in 2020, the restaurant will open a second location under the name City Taco Shack. When asked to share her advice for someone starting a business Wong-Shackelford said, “Be proud and humble. If it’s in you, it will always be in you. If you have a love for what you do, go all the way with it.”
Just across Jefferson Avenue was the next stop on the tour, Saint Louis Hop Shop. There owner Justin Harris described how he and his brother started the business out of necessity. They noticed the large number of micro-breweries that had opened in the area and realized there were no bottle shops or places focused on craft beer. Saint Louis Hop Shop purchases beer from the best breweries around the world and Harris has learned so much about the beer world from trying things out, reading, and going to events. This combined with his experience in retail and growing up in an entrepreneurial family has helped the business tremendously. His advice to new entrepreneurs is “persistence and remember you can never know too much about your business.”
Teatopia, a tea shop located next door, followed Saint Louis Hop Shop. Owner Reginald Quarles walked the interns through his unique journey to opening his business. Prior to Teatopia, he spent years working in the mental health field. After he quit his job, he spent ~6-12 months in New York’s Chinatown to learn all about tea. He was motivated to take control of his life and start a new business after experiencing a lot of loss. “Bet on yourself and take the leap”, he shared. While starting the business was a big challenge and he faced resistance from his family, Quarles loves working for himself.
The students also briefly toured The Luminary, an art gallery co-founded by Washington University alum James McAnally. The gallery was featuring Washington University Sam Fox School of Art & Design’s annual MFA Thesis Exhibition.
At the second to last tour stop students heard from Minerva, a long-time neighborhood resident. During the discussion she shared her perspective on Cherokee Street history, the street’s legacy of Latino-owned businesses, and the effects of gentrification on the area. She also stressed the overall theme of the tour – the importance of supporting local businesses.
The final stop on the tour was Earthbound Beer, a brewery focused on small-batch beers. The brewery started with a small group of friends, 1,000 sq. ft., and $25,000. The Earthbound team, which includes co-founder and Washington University School of Law alum Stuart Keating, eventually moved to their current space, former stock house of the old Cherokee Brewing Co., which they remodeled by doing most of the construction themselves. Team member Kristina Goodwin, who like Keating left behind a career as a lawyer to start the brewery, shared the value of starting small. Not having a lot of investors made decision making much easier and helped them understand how to make small steps.
The two-and-a-half hour tour gave the students an in-depth look at some of the businesses that encompass the St. Louis startup community.
To learn more about Cherokee Street visit: http://cherokeestreetnews.org/