I recently made a short weekend trip back to my hometown of University City, St. Louis. Since "U City" is the neighborhood that houses Washington University, it's sort of like a college town within a larger urban area. The heart of the district is a strip of shops and restaurants known as "the Loop," where you can find everything from a farmer's market (shown above) to fair-trade stores to a fully restored 1920s theater...
Located on Delmar Blvd., the strip begins with the Market in the Loop, an indoor/outdoor farmer's market where, as a kid, my family used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. When I visited, the market was under renovations and I heard a rumor that it's closing down, which I hope isn't true.
Down the street at the east end of the Loop is Plowsharing Crafts, one of my favorite stores in St. Louis. The store works with non-profit groups to provide income and fair pay to crafters working in developing countries. (For their mission statement, click here.) The photo above shows a selection of their tablecloths, which are really beautiful.
Plowsharing carries a nice range of textiles and other crafts. Unlike a typical store, they're a non-profit, self-supporting organization.
The Loop is named for the spot where streetcars used to turn around, or "loop." A restored trolley stands on the west end of the street as a reminder.
My favorite comic book store, Star Clipper, has come a long way since I was a kid. It used to be a tiny hole in the wall next to a pharmacy near my house. It's since moved to the Loop, expanded, and added a gallery.
During my visit the gallery was hung with artworks by musician and former Devo member Mark Mothersbaugh.
Craft Alliance at the west end of the Loop offers classes and houses a store and gallery where you can buy works by local artists.
Good Works offers contemporary furnishings at affordable prices. Large pieces can be found in the low hundreds, and it's a great place to stop if you're a college student outfitting a dorm or a first apartment, or if you're looking for furniture on a budget.
The sidewalk on Delmar Blvd. houses the St. Louis Walk of Fame. A few of the native St. Louisans along the walk include Charles Eames, Tennessee Williams (who grew up in U City), Chuck Berry, and Josephine Baker. For the full list of names, click here.
Vintage Vinyl is one of my favorite record stores. The space inside is huge, and they have a large selection of LPs. Like the sign says, they'll buy your old records.
If you feel like seeing a movie, the Tivoli is a beautiful stop along the Loop. Restored from a 1920s vaudeville theater, the interiors are gorgeous. It's also the place where I got my first job, which was pretty much the best first job anyone could wish for: free popcorn, good movies, and a group of very cool people to work with. At one time an independent theater, the Tivoli is now owned by Landmark Cinemas.
For more information about the U City Loop, click here.