Jan 24

Getting a Move on: How Label Insight Found its Path to Growth in Downtown St. Louis

Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)

In December, 2013, Label Insight and T-REX parted ways. The company, after a year-long stint incubating at T-REX, had grown exponentially. It was clear that after raising millions of dollars and doubling the number of employees, Label Insight was ready to grow into its own space. But striking out on their own in no way meant dissolving the close ties they developed with T-REX–it would become quite the opposite.

The rate of growth Label Insight experienced had much to do with environment. Co-founder Dheeraj Patri shares credit with the community of which he had become a part. “Really it was the desire and commitment by Arch Grants and T-REX communities to get us more involved. The community really propped us up and forced us–to the best of their ability–to be as successful as we can [be],” he said. So to continue their rapid growth Label Insight had to do two things: move out and stay close.   

A Data-Driven Mission

Label Insight, now growing by leaps and bounds, focuses on deeply understanding the makeup of all Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs). This includes everything from food to shampoo. “We look at ourselves as a cloud product label data refinery platform,” co-founder Dheeraj Patri says. “And what we do is we take this datum and we digitize it. By looking at patterns in this data, we are able to understand deeply what is actually in a product.”

Photo courtesy of Label Insight

This is significant because Label Insight’s customers are in the industry. Their work is not to dictate to any entity what to or to not do. It has no regulatory ambition. However, Label Insight uncovers facts and discloses them, letting the data speak. “Our purpose is really about transparency,” says Patri. “And our mission centers around transparency–to provide transparency through data, that is our core mission.” Through the work, Label Insight started with a mission and has taken off.

At a Crossroads

Label Insight wasn’t always a multi-located, 70+ employee company that creates strategic alliances with big names such as the FDA and Nielsen. Long before Label Insight came to be, Anton Xavier, Dagan Xavier, and Dheeraj Patri were looking for a solution. The Xavier brothers’ father experienced a health scare and wanted to alter his diet. But the incident and their attempts to help made the friends keenly aware of how inscrutable product labels are. That provided the impetus for the trio’s business venture. The goal was transparency. From there, the company set out to gather, log, analyze and digitize data.

This began in 2008 and though the work was compelling, the business hadn’t taken off. The three worked in various parts of the globe and gathered periodically as they built out the company. Patri, being the only member in the US, was not tied to any particular city, so when the opportunity came, he and his family moved to St. Louis.

“The reason we came to St. Louis is really because my wife got a job opportunity here. We were at a crossroads where I really wasn’t making money in the business, and I either needed to get a “real” job, or maybe we move to St. Louis. And why not? She’s from St. Louis. It’s a great place. We have children too, and we would have support from her parents as well because they continue to live here,” he said.

Little did Patri know that working from his in-laws’ St. Louis basement had in fact positioned him and the Label Insight company well. “In early 2012, my business partner Anton Xavier sent me an email from an article talking about this startup business competition,” Patri says. “They were giving out $50,000 equity free. Our perspective was, ‘Well, it’s in St. Louis. Why don’t we do that?” We applied, but we had no belief we’d actually win.’ Yet, they did.

Turning Point

Label Insight, then named Food Essentials, was part of Arch Grants’ inaugural class in 2012. This was a pivotal moment for the company. Winning included not just the $50,000 grant, but also access to resources, networking, publicity and affordable office space at T-REX. It was an infusion of money and resources, but being a part of Arch Grants also gave Patri and his partners some harder to quantify advantages.

“Most important, even though capital is very welcome, is the [sense that] you are actually doing something meaningful. That confidence you get from someone actually awarding you something like that is huge. It made us be more aggressive as well as believe in ourselves more. It was a turning point in our company because of that,” he said.

That June, Label Insight began working out of T-REX, in its original location in the Macy’s Building (also known as the Railway Exchange) Downtown. Patri worked from the space by himself, since the Xaviers weren’t living in the U.S. at the time. But he was not alone. T-REX intentionally creates an environment that facilitates interactions among its tenants and the startup community.

Those connections, cultivated organically and set up strategically, had an exponential impact on Label Insight. At T-REX, Patri explains, they began to gain an “understanding [that] there are other people who are in the same boat as us. [The space was] creating an ability to go down and walk across the hallway to talk to, maybe not the same companies, but similar stage companies and really bond and understand and help each other out. On top of that, there was a lot of publicity and outreach to the business community in Downtown St. Louis,” Patri says.

Label Insight team

The Label Insight team in its office in the Curlee Building across 10th Street from T-REX.

Label Insight team

Label Insight Label Insight
Label Insight Label Insight
Label Insight

Label Insight team at the company’s office in Downtown St. Louis

Label Insight

With a boost from Arch Grants, T-REX, and the startup community as a whole, Label Insight began to grow. By 2013 they had joined Capital Innovators, had closed an early seed round led by Cultivation Capital, and continued to raise funds.

Not Goodbye, See You Later

But Label Insight’s funds weren’t the only things that were growing. Operationally, they were gearing up. They knew their time working out of T-REX was nearing an end, once they hit more than 10 employees. The timing, once again, was favorable. T-REX had plans to relocate to the Washington Avenue loft district to the Lammert Building, which it acquired in 2013. Rather than move twice, Label Insight coordinated to move a few weeks ahead of the organization, officially parting ways. But they didn’t move far.

Thriving as a company meant a lot of change for Label Insight, but one thing they were dedicated to keeping constant was community. They sought out real estate that would be proximal to T-REX and found it in the Curlee Building. After each moved, T-REX and Label Insight were next door neighbors, the ideal kind who gather together and look out for each others’ best interests.

Label InsightLabel Insight’s team in 2016. | Photo via LabelInsight.com

Now Label Insight is established, and they are in a position to give back and make a greater impact within the local startup scene. Currently, Patri and the company is asking, “How can the startup ecosystem allow, especially engineers and the technical people, to come down and see what we’re up to and to use that as a way to attract talent? How can we get them to stay in St. Louis instead of them going to the coasts or Chicago and realize there’s a great ecosystem in downtown that they can be apart of that’s growing?”

The answer to Patri’s questions: plan for growth.

In the near term, the company plans to begin sponsoring events held at T-REX. Hosting and gathering entrepreneurial minded and talented people at T-REX, Patri hopes will showcase all the promising opportunities and existing culture the area has, thereby stoking more growth and retention for St. Louis. Increased awareness and and influx of talent in the community will benefit the entire region, and will, of course, benefit Label Insight as well. They have their sights set on expanding and are continuing to grow the St. Louis office. “We’re hiring and we’re hiring locally, which definitely means in St. Louis. We think of St. Louis as our home, where we really got our big break. If there are smart people, send them our way,” he said.

You can’t get much more transparent than that, even for a company with it at the heart of its mission. To learn more about Label Insights opportunities and mission, find them on the web here.  

Jan 24

Adarza BioSystems Closes on $17 Million – What’s Next for the Life Science Startup

Estimated reading time: 4 minute(s)

On January 19, startup Adarza BioSystems, Inc,  based in St. Louis and Rochester, New York, closed on $17 Million in Series C financing and announced that new president Bryan Witherbee is replacing retiring CEO Dr. Rand Henke. This funding round is led by St. Louis-based later-stage life science fund, 3×5 RiverVest Fund II, LP out of RiverVest Venture Partners. Less than a year ago, Adarza closed on $5 Million in Series B financing led by Cultivation Capital Life Science Fund, Lewis and Clark Ventures and the Venture Capital Unit of Siemens. Local investment and the availability of premium talent in science and engineering brought Adarza BioSystems to St. Louis and continues to contribute to its growth.

What Adarza Does

Adarza BioSystems, Inc. is a label-free platform technology that enables the simultaneous detection of hundreds of analytes in a single drop of fluid. New president Brian Witherbee explains the meaning of “label-free” in this context. He says, “Our technology provides a way to accurately measure different proteins in your sample (blood, cultured media, sputum, etc.) in its native form as it exists in nature. Other competing technologies need to have non-native forms of the proteins modified (labeled) with a chemical in order for them to be accurately measured. By not modifying the protein of interest our AIR technology is both sensitive and accurate.”

Adarza’s approach is better for patients and improves the quality of testing outcomes. Witherbee continued, “Our tool allows the researcher to take one sample and 400 different measurements. As we’re entering this realm where we are starting to understand the biology around cancer, having a tool like this where you can multiplex and get a good overview of what is going on in a human system gives more options to the clinician to be able to successfully treat it with drugs and other therapies.

About the technology

Adarza’s AIR (Arrayed Imaging Reflectometry) Platform distinguishes their approach from their competitors because it separates each analyte, removing the risk of cross-reactivity. Witherbee said, “One of the things that is unique about our tool is that with some of the other technologies there is opportunity that you could get mixed results, because of cross-reactivity where as with the Adarza AIR there is 0% cross-reactivity.” Cross-reactivity results in inconclusive results due to unintentional mixing of the analytes.

The AIR Platform process begins with the application of the sample to a silicone chip and incubating it. A rinse and dry step results in an image produced by suppressing background illumination in order to reveal hidden detail on the chip. Within minutes, the image reveals its first results for analysis.

The Backstory

Adarza BioSystems was founded in 2008 by Dr. Benjamin Miller, Professor of Dermatology,  at University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.  Miller serves as Chairman of Adarza BioSystems’ Scientific Board. Witherbee said, ” Miller has been the driving force to a lot of the early observations and development of the technology. Rand Henke, retired CEO, started working with the technology and over the years the intellectual property was licensed to Adarza.”

Rochester is a likely place to have started an immunoassay imaging company. As the home of Eastman Kodak Company and Xerox, there are many people in the area with scientific knowledge about imaging. Witherbee said, “This technology got developed out of a place where imaging technology has been in development for a long time. There is a lot of entrepreneurial effort around imaging. The work that has come out of High Tech Rochester has pushed and helped enable some of these technologies.”

Why move to St. Louis?

Adarza BioSystems moved to O’Fallon, MO in January 2015 as a result of Series A funding. They found BioGenerator, an accelerator focused on cultivating a thriving biosciences sector in St. Louis. As they worked to assemble Series B funding, they found a lot of support in the area.  Witherbee said, “We are here because of a lot of efforts by different investment groups–at first Cultivation Capital, Lewis & Clark Ventures and BioGenerator and now RiverVest–all local community investors looking to further invest into St. Louis. They are helping to move those companies along and provide their experience in terms of tools and connections as well as obviously the financing.”

St. Louis offers substantial assets in the area of scientific human resources as well.  Witherbee said, “One of the nice things about being located here in St. Louis is that there is a wealth of great scientists and engineers here. There have been a lot of scientists here over the years with Monsanto, and Pfizer was here for a long time, so there are a lot of scientists here that have drug discovery experience. That’s exciting for Adarza because we’ll be able to tap into that experience.” Today, Adarza has about 20 employees.

What’s next?

Closing on Series C funding is clearly a step in a great direction for Adarza Biosystems. According to the press release, proceeds from the financing will be used to further expand production capacity in its St. Peters, MO manufacturing facility and fund final development and commercialization of Adarza’s first immunoassay product consumable and instrument platform. The company is also continuing to explore how to commercialize their product. Witherbee said, “We’re still trying to get to the voice of the customer. We want to know what is tough in utilizing these technologies for researchers and how we can make the experience easier. We are still doing the development, which makes it a critical time for us to listen.”

Witherbee sees his new role as taking Adarza’s product to the next level. He said, “Adarza has done a great job of understanding and developing this unique and exciting technology. Now I need to help focus the company on delivering a commercial technology.”

Jan 24

The Scoop: Kakao wins third Good Food Award

The Scoop: Kakao wins third Good Food Award

January 24th 02:01pm, 2017

012417_kakao

The annual Good Food Awards were announced Jan. 20, and area chocolatier Kakao Chocolate has earned top honors in the confections category with its Norton Pâtés du Vin, a fruit gel made with Augusta Winery’s Norton.

The Good Food Awards are given each year to producers who “push their industries towards craftsmanship and sustainability while enhancing our agricultural landscape and building strong communities,” according to the nonprofit’s website.

Owner Brian Pelletier said this award, Kakao’s third in four years, is especially meaningful. “That was really important to me, personally, because it told everyone that this isn’t a cake walk, that every year it gets tougher, that we have to keep our game up,” he said.

Pelletier said he was also proud to win with a Missouri Norton. “We do everything we can do locally to support the economy, but also because there’s great stuff around here,” he said. “I’m in California right now for the award in the middle of wine country, and to be able to say there’s a lot of great wine in Missouri is really fun.”

Other Missouri winners include Patric Chocolate of Columbia, Springfield’s Askinosie Chocolate and Kansas City Canning Co.

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Jan 24

Mosque, Single-Family Homes Approved in St. Louis City Historic Districts

St. Louis City is home to an immense treasure trove of historic districts, landmarks, and architecture. There are city landmarks, national register listings, national historic districts, local historic districts, and more. It’s a lot to keep track of (National designations are important primarily because they confer access to tax credits). Local districts are the only ones to confer any real protection against alteration or demolition.

The relevant point here is that if you want to demolish, renovate, or build in a local historic district you’re going to land at the city’s Cultural Resources Office and seek the approval of the appointed Preservation Board. The board has a good track record of protecting the historic integrity of buildings and neighborhoods. In real life, this means the board often reaffirms simple rules, such as, that no, you cannot install a Home Depot door on your 1895 Benton Park home.

And on big decisions (see The People v. SLU regarding the Pevely Dairy complex) politics can sometimes carry the day. Still,  common sense typically rules the outcomes each month. This week, two single-family homes (Lafayette Square and Benton Park historic districts) and a mosque (McKinley Heights historic district) were approved by the board.

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1212 Dolman Street – Lafayette Square Local Historic District

The Proposal:
This single-family house, on the east side of Dolman Street, follows a Historic Model Example as required by the Lafayette Square Standards. However, the design includes a large side porch, based generally upon a similar porch that was approved by the Preservation Board for another new house constructed at 1722 Carroll Street in 2015.

_______________________________

2843 South 18th Street – Benton Park Local Historic District

The Proposal:
The applicant proposes to construct one single-family residence at 2843 South 18th Street, in the Benton Park Local and National Register District.

_______________________________

2623 Allen Avenue – McKinley Heights Local Historic District

The Proposal:
This is a preliminary review application to construct a new mosque with parking.

Jan 23

100 Apartments, Retail, Planned for 6300 Clayton Avenue in Dogtown

A proposal for the long-vacant lumber yard would bring 100 market-rate apartments and 15,000 sf of retail space to the center of the city’s Dogtown neighborhood. The $20M proposal by Pearl Companies of Indianapolis appears similar to its Trail Side project along the Cultural Trail in that city.

The Pearl project attempts to address parking concerns with 123 underground spaces to serve the 89 1BD and 11 2BD units. Proposed commercial is shown as an 11K sf and 4,500sf spaces fronting Clayton Avenue. At five stories, the project will require a variance to proceed. A half-block on either side of the site (Google Maps) sits a four-story mixed-use infill project and a five-story parking garage now owned by the St. Louis Zoo.

In St. Louis, this means the developer will seek the endorsement of the neighborhood association and alderman. Although a 2013 proposal for 63 apartments on the site was approved by the neighborhood, conditions placed on the project regarding parking and building materials led the developer to choose not to proceed.

The new proposal will be presented to the Clayton-Tamm Community Association January 26. Pearl Companies has the site under contract and will be seeking support for tax abatement as well.

  {Trail Side in Indianapolis by Pearl Companies – 69 apartments over parking, with 20K sf of retail space fronting the Indianapolis Cultural Trail}

The 2013 proposal for 6300 Clayton Avenue:

Jan 20

The Scoop: Katie’s Pizza & Pasta to open Town & Country location

The Scoop: Katie’s Pizza & Pasta to open Town & Country location

January 20th 04:01pm, 2017

070815_katies_gregrannells

Katie and Ted Collier, owners of Katie’s Pizza & Pasta, will take their popular concept west. As reported by St. Louis Magazine, the duo will open a second Katie’s location at 14173 Clayton Road in Town & Country.

Katie Collier said the space, which once housed Einstein Bros. Bagels and the adjacent storefront, will undergo a complete gut rehab. The end result will be approximately 1,000 square feet larger than the Rock Hill location with seating for around 100 inside and 40 seats on the soon-to-be-built patio.

The Colliers spent two years searching for just the right spot. Collier said there were many reasons the Town & Country location was attractive, including plenty of parking, a lack of other pizza and pasta places and a thriving restaurant community.

“The area has a lot of great restaurants that do really well,” she said. “We thought we would be a good complement to them.”

The restaurant will have the same seasonal focus and share the same menu as the Rock Hill location. Collier said she hopes for a late spring or early summer opening.

Editor’s Note: This post originally incorrectly reported the new location’s address. It was updated at 10:15 a.m. Jan. 23 to correct the error. 

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Jan 18

Introducing STLTechMap: A New Interactive Ecosystem Map for St. Louis

Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

Ever since EQ published our ecosystem map as a printed infographic a couple of years ago, we have received great feedback. People have told us they hang it on their office walls for reference and print and share it in meetings or presentations. Seeing the response to our map and ITEN’s map, it’s not surprising to us that the Kauffman Foundation has said that mapping your startup ecosystem is a strategy to strengthen it.

While it felt great to provide the map as a resource, however, we knew that if it were to truly serve as such, it needed to become something dramatically different.

St. Louis Startup Ecosystem Map

Our printed posters were immediately outdated when, the week after we printed copies, another new accelerator launched, already rendering the map out of date. While our printed maps provided a nice birds-eye view of the community, it couldn’t by its very nature allow users to filter content or read more about specific organizations, much less contribute content themselves. Additionally, the finite space of our printed map could in no way accommodate the central part of our tech community—the startups themselves!

In short, our map needed to more truly reflect the nature of our startup ecosystem itself: always evolving and interactive, with an opportunity for everyone to contribute. 

And now it’s here!

Today we introduce STLTechMap.com.

STL Tech Map

Our goal with STLTechMap is to provide easy access to navigating St. Louis’ high-tech scene. Want to peruse programs and networks you can become involved with to push your idea forward? Looking for a list of startups in various industries in St. Louis? Whether you’re a startup CEO, an investor, an out-of-town visitor, an ESO leader or job seeker, let the map be your guide to understanding St. Louis’ startup community and finding the resources you need.

EQ’s Role

EQ has kicked off the content for the map by adding over 250 pins across 14 categories, from Incubators and Accelerators to Co-working and Startups. Thanks to the sponsorship from Cortex Innovation Community, EQ has been able to dedicate hours and resources to getting the map set up and launched–and we will continue adding new pins and moderating user-generated content. We will also send quarterly requests for updates to organizations and apply other methods to ensure the content is as up-to-date as possible.

But We Need Your Help, Too

  • This map is crowdsourced, so encourage startups and other organizations to add themselves to the map. Startups need only have an STL office to make it onto the map.
  • If you are a startup founder, ESO leader or communications manager of an organization already on the map, “claim” your pin to update your information, add photos and post job listings (more on this below).
  • Promote the map to your networks to help tell St. Louis’ startup story. Unlike many cities, St. Louis has multiple innovation districts, and this map tells a visual story about our region.

Why Claim Your Organization on the Map?

Organizations that “Claim” their listing can not only keep their profiles up to date; they can also add job listings for free. Users (read: passive and active job seekers interested in the startup community) can navigate to the Jobs section of the map and see the job listings there. This will temporarily replace EQ’s TEQJobs board. We’d like to see if users utilize this free resource, and if having it integrated into the map helps with engagement by both companies and job seekers.

By claiming your listing, you can also post events to your organization’s page (note: this is a separate events listing from EQ’s main calendar; we will maintain both calendars for a period of time to compare engagement).

We hope you utilize the map–and share widely with your networks–to help the ecosystem continue to grow in 2017.

For question on how to perform certain functions, see below. Otherwise, enjoy the map and we look forward to feedback along the way!

-EQ


STLTechMap “How To” FAQs:

How to add a company or organization to the map:

To add a new company, click “ADD TO MAP.” You’ll be prompted to sign in or create a free account to be able to add listings. You do not need to be the owner or manager of the company to pin a company. EQ moderates all new pin additions. The organization’s owner or communications manager can then “claim” their listing to keep it updated.

How to update an existing pin on the map:

Navigate to the pin’s description page and click “Claim Place.” You’ll be prompted to sign in or create a free account. EQ moderates all requests to claim pins. Please allow up to 24 hours for these approvals (though we aim to do these much more quickly).

How to share a listing on social media:

Navigate to the pin’s description page and click the small “Share” button on the right of the description. You can then choose to share on social media or via email and other channels.

What if my organization is already on the map but I see the information is out of date?

Claim your pin (see above) to update the information, or forward it to someone in your organization who is empowered to do so.

Where to send other feedback on the map: editors@eqstl.com. Please allow up to 48 hours for a response.

Map data compiled by Olive Elwell and Kelly Hamilton

Jan 18

2017 Soulard Mardi Gras Festivities

When you mention Mardi Gras in St. Louis, most of us think of Soulard, home to one of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations outside of New Orleans. The Soulard festivities last for weeks, beginning with Twelfth Night in January and ending with the Bud Light Grand Parade on February 25. Here are the top events and activities during the 2017 Soulard Mardi Gras.

Family Winter Carnival – January 21

The Family Winter Carnival is a chance for everyone to get into the Mardi Gras spirit. There are live performances, arts and crafts and a children’s parade. The carnival is held at Soulard Market Park.

Snowman Softball Tournament – January 28 – 19

Snow or Shine! The region’s premier winter adult softball tournament returns for its sixth year at Central Fields in Forest Park. This year, over 90 teams will compete for the title in their respective division. The coed division plays Saturday, January 28 at 7:30 a.m., and the mens division plays Sunday, January 29 at 7:30 a.m.

Wine Beer and Whiskey Taste – February 10

Spend the evening sampling beverages and meeting the makers of more than 50 beverages from Missouri and beyond. From 7 p.m. – 11 p.m., Guests can enjoy samples of award-winning barbecue from a variety of Award Winning BBQ. Music for the evening will be provided by DJ Quain. Tickets are 40 in advance; $50 at the door

Cajun Cook Off – February 11

You are sure to get your fill of Cajun and Creole food at the Cajun Cook-Off. Learn the secrets of Cajun cooking from the best chefs in St. Louis while enjoying complimentary dishes prepared by them. In addition from learning from the professionals you can also check out the amateur chef scene in st. louis as they display their skills and compete against other amateur chefs. Everyone who attends gets food, Bud Light and hurricanes. Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door.

Missouri Lottery 5k Run for Your Beads – February 18

Get your exercise, St. Louis Mardi Gras style! Show up in your best purple, gold, and green costume and race your way through the historic Soulard neighborhood. In true Mardi Gras spirit, pit stops along the race route will hand out complimentary beer and hurricanes (for runners 21 and older). All registrants will receive a limited edition 5K Run for Your Beads t-shirt. Tickets are $25 until February 10; $30 after February 10 to race day; $35 on Race Day

Cruzan Rum Taste of Soulard – February 18 – 19

This unique self-guided tasting and pub crawl has become one of the most popular events of the Mardi Gras season. Every $25 ticket includes one drink voucher and six food vouchers. You choose the six dishes you wish to sample from a range of Cajun-inspired options.  Saturday attendees can enjoy complimentary trolley rides from one establishment to the next, guided as always by the world famous Soulard Trolley Tramps. Tickets are $25

Beggin’ Pet Parade  – February 19

The Guinness World Record holder for largest costumed pet parade in the world celebrates its 24th year!  Thousands of festive four-legged (and other animal friends) strut their style as they step off at 1 p.m. from 12th and Allen. Those deemed best dressed are selected as members of the Court of the Mystical Krewe of Barkus and make the cut to be part of the Coronation pageant (8th and Lafayette) where the King and Queen of Barkus are crowned.  Of course, the party continues after Coronation with a free concert in the Soulard Market Plaza.

Wiener Dog Derby – February 19

The longest-running dachshund derby in America is back. Enjoy the Sport of Weenies as wiener dogs compete in three age-based categories: Cocktail Weenies, Ballpark Franks, Wiener Wannabe and Hot Dogs, for the title of fastest Weenie! The races take place over a series of elimination heats until we have the Dash of Champions in each age category.

Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball – February 24

The Mayor’s Ball is one of the year’s most anticipated social events. The Black Tie Gala in the Rotunda of St. Louis City Hall is a one-of-a-kind fairy tale evening of great food, cocktails, dancing, and spectacular entertainment.  The night always culminates with a packed dance floor of energized, blissful revelers dressed in alluring gowns and modish tuxedos pulsating to the beat of the music and glittering in the mesmerizing, brilliant light show illuminating the rotunda.  Tickets are $150 for General Admission

Bud Light Grand Parade – February 25

This is the big event of Mardi Gras, bringing tens of thousands of revelers to the streets of Soulard. Some 130 Krewes spend months building their floats, hoping to win prizes and bragging rights at the parade. In addition to the floats, there are also marching bands and, of course, millions of beads flying through the air. The parade begins at 11 am Busch Stadium, makes its way into the heart of Soulard and ends at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery.

 

The post 2017 Soulard Mardi Gras Festivities appeared first on Explore St. Louis.

Jan 17

A Reading List for St. Louis City Candidates for Mayor by Left Bank Books and nextSTL

At nextSTL, we’re always looking for new, different, and informative ways to explore a particular issue or topic. This spring, perhaps no single issue is more important to the future of St. Louis than the election of a new mayor for the first time in 16 years.

With support from Left Bank Books and Patrick McEvoy (Twitter: @pat_mcevoy), we’re doing more than simply listing books to read, we’re presenting leading candidates for mayor with copies of four books we believe are essential to understanding our city and making St. Louis a greater place to live, work, and visit. In the coming days and weeks we’ll reach out to candidates, invite them to join us on the Future Great City podcast and deliver this reading list to them.

We believe that our elected leaders lead best when best informed about urban issues from transportation to livability to small business economics. Our hope is that candidates see their role as community builders beyond the politics of scarcity that continues to confound the city. While we will continue to seek context, track development, and share ideas, each of the books below contains more wisdom and knowledge that we can possibly hope to impart on nextSTL.

The Left Bank Books / nextSTL St. Louis City mayoral candidate reading list:

Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
A direct and fundamentally optimistic indictment of the short-sightedness and intellectual arrogance that has characterized much of urban planning in this century, The Death and Life of Great American Cities has, since its first publication in 1961, become the standard against which all endeavors in that field are measured.

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck
Jeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive. And he has boiled it down to one key factor: walkability. The very idea of a modern metropolis evokes visions of bustling sidewalks, vital mass transit, and a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban core. But in the typical American city, the car is still king, and downtown is a place that’s easy to drive to but often not worth arriving at.

Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses by Stacy Mitchell
In less than two decades, large retail chains have become the most powerful corporations in America. Stacy Mitchell illustrates how mega-retailers are fueling many of our most pressing problems, from the shrinking middle class to rising pollution and diminished civic engagement and she shows how a growing number of communities and independent businesses are effectively fighting back.

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery
A globe-trotting, eye-opening exploration of how cities can and do make us happier people. After decades of unchecked sprawl, more people than ever are moving back to the city. Dense urban living has been prescribed as a panacea for the environmental and resource crises of our time. But is it better or worse for our happiness?

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At the heart of a vibrant sustainable community are local businesses. While our challenges are many, it’s difficult to find one that isn’t directly and significantly impacted by the health of small and locally owned businesses. From employment to procurement, taxes, and philanthropy, locally owned busineses touch every part of our lives and community. Therefore we wanted to offer additional economic impact studies regarding local businesses:

Since 2002, a number of studies have repeatedly documented the positive economic impact of locally owned businesses, and their significantly greater economic return to the local economy than that of retail chains, big box stores, and, especially regarding sales tax, remote online retailers. Independent booksellers have often been the driving force behind these efforts, which have resulted in favorable public policy for locally owned businesses and heightened consumer awareness of the issues.

Amazon & Empty Storefronts: The Fiscal and Land Use Impacts of Online Retail (2016)
A study from Civic Economics which details the overall negative impact that Amazon has had on Main Street retailers and jobs, and the communities in which they are located, across the country. ABA has prepared the New Localism Toolkit with resources for member bookstores based on data from the Amazon study.

Independent Business Owners Report Growing Public Support (2014)
A national survey of independent business owners conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in partnership with the Advocates for Independent Business coalition has found that Local First initiatives are boosting customer traffic and improving the outlook on Main Street, but policymakers need to do more to create a level playing field and ensure that small local businesses have an equal opportunity to compete.

Survey Confirms Benefits of “Buy Local First” Campaigns, Finds Challenges Ahead (2013)
The 2013 post-holiday Independent Business Survey, conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) in partnership with the American Booksellers Association and other indie business organizations, has found that independent businesses experienced solid revenue growth in 2012, buoyed in part by “buy local first” initiatives and growing public interest in supporting locally owned businesses.

Indie Impact National Summary: Indies Give Back Over Three Times as Much as Chains (2013)
Communities as different as Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Louisville, Kentucky, have at least one thing in common: Their independent businesses recirculate a substantially greater proportion of their revenues back into the local economy than do their chain competitors. This, according to a national study, The Indie Impact Study Series: National Summary Report, a summary of 10 localized studies conducted by Civic Economics.

Independent Businesses in Salt Lake City Deliver Greater Economic Benefit (2012)
Choosing a locally owned store generates almost four times as much economic benefit for the surrounding region as shopping at a chain, a new study has concluded. The study by research firm Civic Economics found that the local retailers return an average of 52 percent of their revenue to the local economy, compared with just 14 percent for the chain retailers.

Grand Rapids Study Shows Shift to Indies Has Big Impact (2008)
A new study from Local First of Grand Rapids, Michigan, reveals that a modest change in consumer behavior — a 10 percent shift in market share to independent businesses from chain stores — would result in 1,600 new jobs, $53 million in wages, and a $137 million economic impact to the area.

Procurement Matters: The Economic Impact of Local Suppliers (2007)
A Civic Economics study commissioned by Local First Arizona reveals that public procurement from a local supplier generates “dramatically greater local economic activity” than procurement from a chain business.

The Andersonville Study of Retail Economics (2004)
A 2004 report by Civic Economics, which compares 10 local businesses in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago versus their chain competitors, demonstrates the greater economic impact of locally owned businesses.

Jan 11

Notes from a Conflicted Soccer Fan

Truth is, I can check off most of the boxes: I grew up watching Soccer Made in Germany on Channel 9. I played ball in the CYC. I “enjoyed” a brief, unsuccessful college career in the sport, played locally. I spent dozens of nights competing in rec leagues at the Soccer Dome, through smothering heat and teeth-rattling cold. I broke bones, many of them. I coached the game for seven years, coming all the way back ‘round to the CYC. I’ve watched soccer matches on every broadcast medium in St. Louis venues, from closed-circuit TV in theaters in the ‘70s to HD splendor in packed soccer bars today.

In theory, all of this make me “a soccer guy.”

In reality, I’m also a guy that frets about public funding mechanisms for stadia.

So I wasn’t sure how I’d vote, if an MLS proposal were put before the voters this spring. As it stands today, that vote won’t happen, squashed in Aldermanic committee. Because I didn’t know how I’d vote — but, in my secret heart-of-hearts, wanted to vote for Major League Soccer’s years-overdue arrival here — I sent a note to a super-connected soccer supporter in town, suggesting that I could put together some well-attended meetings in South City. He, in turn, passed that info to an information rainmaker with the preferred MLS expansion group, SC STL.

In my note, sent not quite a month ago, I spoke of: my wanting to find out answers for my own questions; of my ability to bring together both supporters and (yes) opponents of public funding; and of the fact that I wasn’t looking for any money in this, that it was purely my attempt to pull people together in a few suitable spaces, to talk about the stadium in an organized, public fashion.

I’ll give one guess as to how many calls I got back. (And it’s a number less than that one guess.)

In a piece by Mike Faulk and Koran Addo, published on stltoday.com, Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia (D-6) notes this:

Ingrassia also said the ownership group didn’t spend enough time reaching out to the community as their plan developed.

“It’s not just that they didn’t include me in the process early enough, but the public in general,” Ingrassia said. “There should’ve been community hearings and an ability formed at the Board of Aldermen to digest the details, but for the public to as well.”

As a quick moment of honesty, I’m slightly irritated by this on a personal level, that my experience in local journalism, civic, political and even soccer circles didn’t merit so much as a call back, or a “no thanks, we have other approaches for public engagement that we want to pursue.” I honestly feel that the informational meetings could’ve been a small, but well-intentioned asset in the stadium effort; it would’ve at least hinted at smaller, cheaper, organic ways of spreading information as a part of the overall plan.

My real annoyance, then, lies in the idea that yet another project has fallen into the classic St. Louis pattern of top-down construction. The folks with the plan presented the plan. The plan didn’t go as expected. (Hello, Governor Greitens!) And now the plan will be pulled back and worked on in some handsome, wood-paneled meeting room at the MAC, well away from public input. Again. As always.

Not being in the prediction business, I’m unsure if the vote will be renewed this year, or going forward. Until then, I’ll read whatever stories I find and I’ll try to keep an open mind. When-and-if a vote comes, I’m not even sure how I’ll cast a ballot; my brain and heart might have some consensus building of their own to do.

What I’m pretty sure about is that I won’t spend too much time caring one way of the other. Like a referee at kickoff, my vote may just come down to a coin flip.