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Debra and Ross Hunter

On Reopening: An interview with Provisions St. Louis’ Debra & Ross Hunter

Nicki's Central West End Guide Shop News  Wolfum Studio Provisions St. Louis Debra and Ross Hunter

Last week I stopped in to visit Provisions St. Louis‘ Debra and Ross Hunter to find out what the reaction has been to their reopening earlier this summer. The Hunters moved from Sonoma CA to the CWE and opened the shop at 228 N. Euclid in the fall of 2018.  I was also following up on a “q & a” I sent to learn more about what they were up to during the shut down (see below).

Debra reported that after being sequestered for so long customers said they were delighted to be doing something that felt familiar and normal, in fact “I would say they seem absolutely cheerful,” she continued—which is exactly how I have always felt when visiting the shop.Nicki's Central West End Guide Shop News  Wolfum Studio Provisions St. Louis Debra and Ross Hunter  Following are a couple of items that caught my eye the other day:

Nicki's Central West End Guide Shop News  Wolfum Studio Provisions St. Louis Debra and Ross Hunter

This might be the time to add backgammon to your repertoire as you spend more time at home, especially one as handsome as the handmade sets in Baltic birch created by Wolfum Studio above, $125 to $250. The L. A. based design studio also makes striking wooden trays in bold, contemporary patterns that Debra said have been popular gift items since the shop first opened.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Shop News  Wolfum Studio Provisions St. Louis Debra and Ross Hunter  A Brooklyn-based company adds leather straps and other finishes to great-looking market bags, $48 and $68. It was good to learn that these bags provide a source of income to the women in India who weave them.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Shop News  Wolfum Studio Provisions St. Louis Debra and Ross Hunter

The q & a follows:
1. What date did you close the shop due to the stay-at-home orders?
We closed the store on March 16th and reopened around Memorial Day.
2. Retail is tough enough, but then to lose the momentum you had created since opening in the fall of 2018 must have been a terrific challenge. How did you both survive that?
We had been mentally preparing for a couple of weeks and felt the most important aspect would be to stay positive and pass on that positivity through our social media.
And as luck would have it, we had been watching the trajectory of the virus and its ramifications since January, so we began to dial back our spring orders. Many, many businesses order months in advance, we prefer to be more flexible —offering a curated selection that is of the moment and relative to our customers.
3. Were you doing business online?  
We were not, but with the closure, we were able to take the time to develop an e-commerce website. We are truly a brick and mortar Main Street store where the sharing of conversations and experiences is the core of our business. However, it was always a goal to have a website where people could familiarize themselves with what we carry, who we are, and what we’re about.
4. How did you spend your time while you were home? I ran into Ross at Straub’s at least once, so I gather you both like to cook. Was there something you tackled during that time that you had been putting off? 
Well, the website development was omnipresent but we did ALOT of cooking—but in all fairness, we’re always doing a lot of cooking—everything from fresh falafel & pita bread to carnitas & homemade tortillas.
5. And finally, do you have any second thoughts about moving to St. Louis from wine country and opening a business here with all the challenges we face?
Not at all! There are challenges everywhere; we feel very at home here and love being a part of the St Louis and CWE community.
Speaking for many who have discovered Provisions St. Louis…we’re so glad they have put down roots here too.
Provisions St. Louis, 228 N. Euclid, Tues. through Sat. 11 to 6ish, Sun. Noon to 5ish.

From Sonoma to the CWE: Meet the proprietors of Provisions St. Louis

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services Shop News  Visitor Assembly Provisions St. Louis Debra and Ross Hunter

Debra and Ross Hunter endured the October 2017 wildfires in northern California wine country, so when Thursday’s snowfall caused a snafu in St. Louis it was a mere inconvenience compared to what they have been through. My impression is that nothing would have prevented them from opening the doors on Friday to their new shop, Provisions St. Louis at 228 N. Euclid. When I stopped in for a preview on Wednesday there were still boxes to unpack and shelves to stock with a wide assortment of gift items, apothecary—men’s and women’s skincare and grooming items, scents, personal and home accessories, and art books.

The couple’s former shop in Sonoma County, Provisions 707 (named after the area code), was not destroyed by the wildfires, but business evaporated when the shop’s customer-base was displaced because of them. It was obvious to these seasoned retailers that it would take years to rebuild their business.

Last March, when a former customer invited them to visit Kansas City where she had moved her graphic design business, they decided to add St. Louis to their itinerary. They enjoyed Kansas City but St. Louis won them over. During their short time here they fell in love with the architecture, the parks, an obvious appreciation for the arts, and the people they met.

When their host at a B&B in U. City suggested they go to Brasserie for dinner, they wandered around the neighborhood afterwards. “This is it,” they said to each other. The Central West End was “so European and appealing.” The Hunters added that they really missed living in a city after once living in San Francisco.

They returned to Sonoma, fixed up their house which they sold right away, and returned to St. Louis where they moved into an apartment on Lindell.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services Shop News  Visitor Assembly Provisions St. Louis Debra and Ross Hunter

When the Hunters learned that the shop space on Euclid where Fauxgerty had been located (between Insomnia Cookies and Lemon Spalon) was available, they snapped it up. (Fauxgerty’s lease was up, and they are now selling their products online.)

Over the years the Hunters have gotten to know the makers of the products they carry, most of whom are based in the U.S. There were boxes everywhere the day I visited so what I’ve photograph is just a small sampling of what is available today. There is a large selection of wooden game sets and trays, as well as handsome Hook & Albert bags, see photo above. Debra remarked that the shelves looked a little “mancentric” Wednesday, but there was still much merchandise to unpack.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services Shop News  Visitor Assembly Provisions St. Louis Debra and Ross Hunter

Among the wonderful items that caught my eye were the brightly patterned dog coats and cookie jars, above.  Display cases (not photographed) hold Randolph Engineering eyeglasses from Maine, beautiful Il Bussetto leather goods from Italy, Bexor wallets from Texas, and handsome watches from Timex.

A complete list of merchandise (jewelry by A Blonde and her Bag, for instance) can be found on Provisions St. Louis new website, created by CWE-based Visitor Assembly.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services Shop News  Visitor Assembly Provisions St. Louis Debra and Ross Hunter

Just a few of the really interesting art books you’ll find at Provisions St. Louis.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services Shop News  Visitor Assembly Provisions St. Louis Debra and Ross Hunter

A section of the store is devoted to men’s skincare and grooming products.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services Shop News  Visitor Assembly Provisions St. Louis Debra and Ross Hunter

And small-batch organic skin care products for women that are unique to St. Louis.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services Shop News  Visitor Assembly Provisions St. Louis Debra and Ross Hunter

In an email message the Hunters added: “Our guiding force is that the shop be an inviting place with great ambience involving music, conversations, a mutually shared experience, and great service, which everyone deserves.”

“Everything we carry here has a story,” Ross said. Perhaps the biggest story comes from the proprietors of Provisions St. Louis themselves. Stop in soon and welcome the Hunters to their new city and this wonderful neighborhood.

Provisions St. Louis, 228 N. Euclid is open every day but Monday from 11 to 7ish. “We don’t know anyone here,” Debra said, “so though we will have regular shop hours, we will probably be here most of the time anyway.”