You might know the STL-Style shop for its memorable and unique St. Louis merchandise. Maybe you know the snazzy building on the corner of Cherokee Street and Compton Avenue. Or, you may have been seeing double due to these well-known, STL-proud twins in the city. I’ve been fortunate enough to know those guys and their shop for a few years now. Read the interview I did with Jeff and Randy Vines from STL-Style House, because you can’t spell STYLE without STL 🙂
1. Everyone’s got a reason they’re in and/or love St. Louis: What’s your history with the city?
We’ve been enamored with STL from an early age–our dad used to tell us stories about growing up on the North Side in the 1940s-50s and taking the streetcar all over the city, and it just captured our imagination in ways we couldn’t shake. As we got older, we would spend as much time as possible in the city, getting to know it on a more intimate level than most suburban teenagers. Before we were even old enough to drive, we’d catch the Bi-State bus from our house in Creve Coeur and ride all the way downtown, exploring all the neighborhoods along the way. Throughout the 1990s we happened to land a gig producing a cable TV show on Double Helix Television that was only broadcast in the City of St. Louis, so that experience really solidified our passion for all things STL. While many of our West County peers were hanging out at Chesterfield Mall or TGI Fridays, we’d be in the city, interviewing random characters on the street and shooting silly videos with our camcorder. Beyond that, our family roots run deep in this city!
2. Why did you decide to start STL Style? How was the process of starting your brick and mortar business?
We started out doing this just as a side hustle, never really thinking it would turn into something more. We just wanted to represent our city in a way that felt cool to us, and since we couldn’t find anything out there we decided to create our own line of t-shirts that we could wear around ourselves. So we teamed up with a graphic designer friend of ours and started cranking out a few shirts here and there with different STL themes. Before we knew it, we got requests for more shirts from others like us who loved the city and wanted to rep it in a cool way. For years we just treated this operation as a hobby for the most part, because we had full-time day jobs to work around. But after some random luck and unexpected freedom, we leased a storefront on Cherokee Street in 2010 and moved our sideline hustle to an actual storefront. From that point on our lives would take a totally new direction. The story of our evolution into a successful business is way too long for a blog post, but it’s been one hell of a ride! This year marks our 10 year anniversary on Cherokee Street– ONE WHOLE DECADE! And we only get better with age.
3. Why did you locate the store on Cherokee Street?
Being the city geeks we are, we’ve always been intrigued by Cherokee Street. In high school, this is where we came with our friends to buy bongs. Cherokee was always an adventure for us and it embodies everything we love about St. Louis–it’s both a work-in-progress and a work of art. It just so happened we had a friend who owned a building with an available storefront at Cherokee & Compton, and he asked if we had any interest in taking it on. Needless to say, we didn’t think twice. This was a few years before Cherokee Street was “rediscovered” by the masses–it was still kind of no-man’s land and very much off the radar, but that’s what we liked about it. At the time, we weren’t sure if we were cool enough for Cherokee Street, but we felt at home almost immediately. After the first year we outgrew our first space and moved to the larger storefront next door in the same building, where we remain to this very day.
4. What have been some of your favorite parts about being on Cherokee?
For us, Cherokee Street is very personal. We cut our teeth here and pursued our dream on this street. The people, the architecture, the experiences we’ve had here– it all holds an indelible place in our consciousness and has influenced every aspect of our brand identity. A lot of neighborhoods strive to be considered diverse and inclusive, inspiring places; Cherokee Street just does it without even trying. There is nothing contrived or artificial about this street–it’s a real life cast of characters, a bastion of creative expression, and a laboratory of diversity in the truest sense of the word. Cherokee Street really has no parallel, it’s just a distinctive and special place. We love that our store has become a destination that gives people an opportunity to discover a part of the city that they might not otherwise ever have a reason to come to. This is the real St. Louis.
5. Tell me about the outside of your store. What facade improvements/designs have you made? And that mural! How was it working with the City/necessary people to get all of that accomplished?
We are lucky to occupy such a prominent corner, and we love tapping into local talent to jazz up our curb appeal. We enlisted legendary artist Phil Jarvis to paint a St. Louis flag pattern on our exterior transom windows, which made a huge difference. In 2018, we commissioned acclaimed mural artists Robert and Liza Fishbone to transform our Compton-facing wall into a landmark work of art, and they nailed it. Titled “Nothing Impossible”, this original mural has become a beacon of Cherokee Street and one of the most photographed landmarks on the South Side.
6. We know you love Cherokee. What are some of your other favorite neighborhoods?
When it comes to cool neighborhoods, St. Louis is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s hard to pick favorites, but we love the usual suspects for different reasons: CWE, Lafayette Square, FPSE/The Grove, Old North, Soulard, Benton Park, Shaw, the Hill, etc., as well as Fountain Park, Skinker-DeBaliviere, DeMun, Carondelet and Hyde Park. And shout out to inner-ring streetcar suburbs like U. City, Clayton, Maplewood, Ferguson, etc., which all have distinct personalities of their own.
7. Favorite cities outside of St. Louis?
We have a deep connection to New York City (specifically Brooklyn), so that’s a given. Many close family members and friends live there, so it’s been our second home since we were little kids. You can’t love cities and not appreciate New York–it’s a world unto itself. We love all cities (well, almost all), but have a particular soft spot for faded legacy cities like Philly, Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh to name a few. Getting to know other cities has always been a passion of ours, and every time we travel we fall a little more in love with STL. We also like Chicago (our mom’s hometown), but we wouldn’t be true St. Louisans if we admitted that. 😉
8. Since I know you guys have a love of cities and urban planning, what do you think are the most important goals and/or characteristics of a city? (For example, walkability, public transit, safety, economic development, housing options, etc.)
Cities thrive on density, movement and interaction. Unfortunately, many American cities are struggling to recover from a generation of misguided policies that has encouraged cars over people, divisions over connections, and sprawl over density. Modern-day St. Louis is a textbook case of the damage these failed urban renewal schemes can do to a classic American city. When cities try to compete with the suburbs, they will lose. At the turn of the 20th century, St. Louis was the 4th largest city in the country–bigger than Boston, San Francisco and Washington, DC. It boasted one of the largest streetcar networks in the world, and adopted the civic motto “Nothing Impossible!” St. Louis defined greatness and confidence. If it is to reclaim the prominence it once held, we must regard our inherent urban qualities as assets, not liabilities. St. Louis already has the bones to be a great city–that’s what it was built to be. We don’t have to start from zero. What has been lacking is bold, dynamic leadership that understands that regionalism means acknowledging that the CITY is the center of our region and the heart of our collective identity. We need to set forth a progressive urban agenda and live by the motto “Nothing Impossible!” once again.
9. Anything else you’d like to add?
Despite its problems, we will always love and defend St. Louis. No other city gives us a greater sense of pride and purpose. Not only do we love St. Louis for what it was, or what it could be–we love it for what it IS! This city has more soul in one block than most cities could ever dream of, and that’s what inspires us every day.
Thank you again, Jeff and Randy, for taking the time to tell me more about you, your shop, and the way you love St. Louis and cities. Your responses will and should make readers think about the importance of small business and cities overall.
Please check out STL Style House at 3159 Cherokee Street. You can learn more and follow Jeff and Randy using the links below!