Jeff and Randy Vines (yes, they're twins), self-styled uber-ambassadors for St. Louis and owners of STL StyLe, turned a basement T-shirt shop into a thriving business that produces and sells a full line of clothing, posters and other knick-knacks that celebrate St. Louis and its neighborhoods.
Very briefly, describe STL StyLe and what people are likely to find there.
STL-StyLe is a St. Louis-inspired clothing and design company specializing in apparel, accessories and other ephemera with an affectionate and stylish nod to the city we love. We feature products that celebrate the neighborhoods, landmarks and colloquialisms that make St. Louis such a lovable and original city.
How did you two get started on this enterprise?
When we graduated from college in 2001, there weren't really any t-shirts out there that made St. Louis look cool, so we decided to make some for ourselves because we were so proud to be from here and thought the city deserved to be repped in style. The few early designs we did caught on fast, and before we knew it we were being featured in different local publications, and in 2008 the New York Times took notice and did a feature all about our business. That opened up a whole new world for us. To that point STL-Style had just been a part-time hobby, but by 2010 we were able to make it a full-time gig by adding full-service graphic design and custom screenprinting services.
What new products are you particularly excited about?
Our new knit fuzzy ball STL beanies have been hugely popular this winter! And though it's not a new product, we always roll out new color schemes for our ever-famous St. Louis Neighborhoods print. We also have several new designs in the works that we'll roll out in the first quarter of this year, so stay tuned!
Do you have something that you think every tourist should get?
Hmmm....our Saint (expletive) Louis shirt is always popular with tourists and locals alike, but there's plenty of G-rated stuff to choose from as well, from the generic to the obscure. And you can't go wrong with our St. Louis city flag bumper stickers either, which have become a ubiquitous sight on car bumpers and lightposts across the city.
Talk about the neighborhood on Cherokee St.
Where to begin! Cherokee Street is, simply put, our favorite street in St. Louis because it's a work in progress. It's raw, unpolished, creative, historic, extremely diverse, inclusive, authentic, progressive, gritty, collaborative, uninhibited, and pretty much every other adjective that would make an urban neighborhood appealing. It's one of those places that you just need to experience on foot in order to really appreciate it. The random art, buildings and people that we encounter are what keep us inspired every day. It's also revitalizing in the right way—there's a common understanding among residents and business owners in the community that its local, independent flavor and economic and cultural diversity are its strength. It's a delicate balance that's extremely hard to maintain once a neighborhood becomes "discovered", but Cherokee so far has remained true to itself, and we're very proud of that. There aren't really words to adequately describe our love for this street...it's just a living thing.
When out-of-town friends come to visit, what do you make sure they see in St. Louis?
The city's neighborhoods are what set St. Louis apart from about 90% of the cities in the USA. The endless blocks of stately red brick architecture, the grand city parks, and the array of first-class cultural institutions within them are testaments to St. Louis's historic prominence as one of America's greatest cities. As easy at it may be to drive from point to point, we make a point to walk and use public transportation as often as possible to connect with the city more intimately. Forest Park, City Museum, Soulard Farmers Market, Missouri Botanical Garden and Citygarden are signature stops for out-of-town guests. See more answers below.
Besides the Cherokee neighborhood, what are some other cool neighborhoods?
We try to get around the entire city as often as possible, but the Central West End, The Hill, Delmar Loop, South Grand, Soulard, Benton Park, Lafayette Square, Dogtown, Skinker-DeBaliviere, Dutchtown, Old North St. Louis, DeMun, Hyde Park and The Grove are among our favorites. There's a tendency here to compare neighborhoods against each other ("my neighborhood is better than your neighborhood because..."), but it's not a competition. There's a neighborhood for every mood here—each one has its own distinct character, and collectively they make St. Louis the big, impressive, textured city it is. Simply put, St. Louis's neighborhoods are our single biggest asset—they don't build cities like this anymore.
For people who have just one day in the city, what do you recommend they do?
Where do you like to shop?
Aside from Cherokee Street, the Delmar Loop is a great destination for unique shopping and people-watching.
Can you recommend a few restaurants?
My Perfect Day
Breakfast at Rooster on South Grand
Architectural photography in Hyde Park, Old North St. Louis and Lafayette Square
Lunch and live music at Blues City Deli
Walk off calories on Cherokee Street (walk end to end)
Sump on S. Jefferson for an incomparable coffee experience
Dinner at Taste in the Central West End
After dinner drink at the Moonrise Hotel rooftop in The Loop
Sip St. Louis-themed cocktails at The Royale on S. Kingshighway
Cap the night at the funky Bump & Hustle worldbeat dance party at Blank Space on Cherokee Street