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STL Foodworks promoting culinary entrepreneurship to open in the CWE

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Services Shop News  STL Foodworks Ford Hotel Supply Christy Ford Schlafly Charlie Schlafly

Construction crews are hurriedly transforming a building at 408 N. Sarah (1 1/2 blocks north of Lindell) that was for many years occupied by St. Louis Shade & Hardware into eight state-of-the-art certified commercial kitchens. STL Foodworks is slated to open the end of June.Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Services Shop News  STL Foodworks Ford Hotel Supply Christy Ford Schlafly Charlie Schlafly

The project got underway last fall when Christy Ford Schlafly, president of Ford Hotel Supply, and her son Charlie, vice president of the company, purchased the 11,000 s.f. building. Opening a certified commercial kitchen had been on their radar for many years. The location satisfied two important criteria: it had to be within the city limits and centrally located. Another plus for this space is that it’s roughly halfway between Schlafly’s home in the CWE and her family’s business, located at 2204 N. Broadway.

Ford Hotel Supply, founded by the Ford family in 1911, is the go-to source for commercial kitchen and bar equipment in the St. Louis area. Schlafly’s father, Bill Ford, and his twin brother, Jack, who worked for the company their entire lives, were born in the CWE, went to school here, and lived in the neighborhood too.

Over and over again, Schlafly was asked by clients where to find a certified commercial kitchen in the city. She said some churches offer their kitchens for rent, but there was nothing like what they’re creating at STL Foodworks. When I visited recently, I learned a lot about why a facility like this one is so vital to the culinary community. Food truck operators are required to cook in a fully-licensed certified kitchen in order to operate their businesses, caterers are always looking for kitchen space to rent, and people who have great ideas for food products need a commercial kitchen as well.

“The culinary entrepreneurs I’ve met have such passion,” Schlafly said. “Their enthusiasm is infectious and I love hearing about their ideas. We’re thrilled to finally be able to offer STL Foodworks as a midway point between testing recipes in their home kitchens and launching businesses.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Services Shop News  STL Foodworks Ford Hotel Supply Christy Ford Schlafly Charlie Schlafly

Construction is moving quickly on four fully-equipped kitchens where eight chefs can operate at a time. Two of the kitchens are earmarked for single tenants, the other two rooms will each house three complete kitchens (one of those spaces is shown above). The idea behind having multiple kitchens in one space is to build a sense of community, which is important to Schlafly. Entrepreneurs will be able to bounce ideas off one another and perhaps collaborate on pop-ups to test their ideas on the public.

Kitchens can be rented for 1/2 day, full day, a week or a month. All bookings will be handled online, though an on-site manager will handle day-to-day operations.

The reception area will feature a refrigerator case and shelving so chefs and culinary entrepreneurs can sell their products to the public. The area will also have a small selection of kitchen tools for those renting kitchens, and I would imagine the general public could purchase those items too.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Services Shop News  STL Foodworks Ford Hotel Supply Christy Ford Schlafly Charlie Schlafly

Between the kitchen area and the refrigerator and freezer section, above, there is a dishwashing and “wear” washing area. Everyone is expected to clean up their kitchen area of course, though there will be someone available to step in if a caterer, for instance, is flying out the door to an assignment and can’t stop to tidy up.

Another item high on food professionals wish list is long-term rental of refrigerators, freezers (above), and dry storage, which will be available at STL Foodworks. The lower level will contain a packaging room with long tables so caterers and creators can wrap their goods. They can also store supplies there long term.

The second floor is being built out as a classroom with a separate computer area. Everyone who leases space at STL Foodworks must have a “ServSafe” certificate, which means you have taken a class in food and beverage safety. That class will be offered onsite. There will also be classes in recipe costing and scaling, and whatever else the community needs.

Schlafly said plans are still evolving, though it doesn’t seem like they will need to offer anything more to make STL Foodworks a  success.  “We’re making a huge investment here,” she said.  “We’re thrilled to be able to fill this vital need and offer this space to the talented culinary community here in St. Louis. It will be so rewarding to see what emerges from these kitchens.”

And won’t it be fun for the rest of us to stop by and see what’s in the refrigerator case?

STL Foodworks, 408 N. Sarah, opening around June 30. For more information, contact Christy Ford Schlafly at cschlafly@fordstl.com, or Charlie Schlafly, ckschafly@fordstl.com.

A visit to Fresh & Co. Studio and Fresh Art Photography in The Grove

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Services Shop News  The Grove St. Louis Jodie Allen Fresh&Co.Studio Fresh Art Photography Elizabeth Freshour

There are plenty of event spaces in St. Louis, some of which are located here in the CWE—Mahler Ballroom and The McPherson come to mind. But what Elizabeth Freshour and Jodie Allen have created with the opening of Fresh & Co. Studio and Fresh Art Photography, at 4366 Manchester in The Grove, takes a slightly different approach.

When Freshour and Allen stumbled upon the dark and dreary 1200 s.f. space across from Urban Chestnut, it had been vacant for a couple of years. They saw the potential for what they envisioned as a “spin on a co-working space,” two businesses sharing one storefront, not as partners but as “studio mates.”  Since opening last April, they have accomplished what they hoped for. The eye-catching storefront and type of business fits right into the increasing vitality of The Grove, and they have been booking events in the space ever since.

Elizabeth Freshour’s Fresh & Co. Studio can be leased for bridal or baby showers, craft workshops, pop-ups, small meetings, etc.  While I was interviewing Freshour,  I kept picturing an all-white dinner party that’s been on my mind for years.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Services Shop News  The Grove St. Louis Jodie Allen Fresh&Co.Studio Fresh Art Photography Elizabeth Freshour

Photo courtesy of Untamed Heart Photography

Studio-mate Jodie Allen, above, uses the space for her business, Fresh Art Photography, and in addition, the white canvas of a space is available for other photographers to lease for shoots as well.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Services Shop News  The Grove St. Louis Jodie Allen Fresh&Co.Studio Fresh Art Photography Elizabeth Freshour

Photo courtesy of Fresh Art Photography

Elizabeth Freshour, above, her husband and their toddler moved to St. Louis from the Bay Area 7 years ago. Now there are two kids, ages 6 & 9. Freshour hired Jodie Allen to take their family portrait each year, and they became friends.  As the friendship blossomed, they decided to blend their business ideas together in The Grove.

In the past Freshour has worked in data storage and in sales operations for a natural food company. Now she not only manages the event space—and repaints the studio’s white floor several times a month (which she says she has down to a science),  she also finds time to work for a non-profit and to work in elder care.

“I feel very excited and lucky to have started this business with Jodie,” she said, “Creating a place for people to succeed while making their art or hosting a workshop is a joy to watch.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Services Shop News  The Grove St. Louis Jodie Allen Fresh&Co.Studio Fresh Art Photography Elizabeth Freshour

Fresh & Co. Studio is used for rehearsals too. An indie rock band practices there, and because why not. theater co. has been rehearsing for a performance of Fair Youth which will be presented, April 18, 19 & 20Crafters and yoga instructors also rent the space, you can find out about these events on the website too.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Services Shop News  The Grove St. Louis Jodie Allen Fresh&Co.Studio Fresh Art Photography Elizabeth Freshour

To see the types of events that have been held at Fresh & Co. Studio, click Tour on the website. The studio is open by appointment between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., 7 days a week. There is a kitchenette, free wi-fi, an outdoor area, and tables, chairs (for 40), and linens for rent. Freshour maintains a list of party stylists and caterers on the website, or you can provide your own. Entry to the space is concierge-style, so after you key in the entry code, you are completely on your own.

When Freshour moved to St. Louis, she had no professional contacts. Now, with the creation of Fresh & Co. Studio, she says she has built incredible relationships with many entrepreneurs, which has added to the reasons why she is so happy they moved to St. Louis.

Fresh & Co. Studio and Fresh Art Photography, 4366 Manchester in The Grove. For photography studio/event pricing information contact Elizabeth at info@freshandcostudio.com, (314) 722-8812.

87% voted yes! Two neighborhood districts have special vote on Tuesday for Safety and Security Propositions

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services  CWE North SBD Cathedral Square SBD

Photo shows police officers from The City’s Finest patrolling in the CWE North SBD.

There’s been a lot of encouragement posted on the NextDoor website for CWE residents to vote in favor of  propositions to renew taxing authority for ten years (2019-2029) in two CWE Special Business Districts (SBDs) that will be on the ballot this Tuesday, April 2nd. Voters in the CWE North SBD and Cathedral Square SBD will determine whether the special tax that supports security initiatives in those parts of the CWE will be continued. (See map below.)

Here’s what’s at stake: Passage of the propositions will ensure ongoing funding for supplemental police patrols, the operation of an extensive security camera system, lighting improvements and other measures intended to enhance neighborhood safety and security.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services  CWE North SBD Cathedral Square SBD

CWE North SBD highlighted in yellow. Cathedral Square SBD highlighted in blue

NOTE: I was surprised to learn that there is a separate paper ballot specifically for this proposition that should be provided to each qualified voter at the polling locations affected by the propositions.

Voters in the two districts are encouraged to VOTE YES to support funding for continuation of these important initiatives.