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This post originally appeared on DutchtownSTL.org.

Brian Adler of Missouri-Metro.com wrote this piece for his new blog focusing on development through the lens of its economic, social, and political impact. We thank Brian for letting us publish his article here at DutchtownSTL.org as well.

Make sure to visit Missouri-Metro.com and follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Chip and Tasha Smith are here to stay. “I can see the future,” said Chip, as he gazed in wonder at his extravagantly remodeled storefront in the heart of Downtown Dutchtown on Meramec Street. Living just steps from their store, Chip and Tasha could not be more bullish on their neighborhood. Chip, a photographer and artist by trade, has South City in his bones. Tasha even serves on the DT2 (Downtown Dutchtown) Board, influencing decisions that support local businesses, community events, and infrastructure.

Editor’s Note: The photos taken for this piece are sure to pale in comparison to what Chip is capable of.

For nearly a decade, Chip has been building his photography and videography business. It was only 10 years ago that he bought his first camera, and here Chip sat in a chic, modern studio of his own making. Brand new flooring, popping colors, wood accented walls, and a classic old South St. Louis ceiling grace a location that those just wandering in might expect in a New York City boutique. Much of the work came from the Smith Family’s own sweat, with Chip, Tasha, and their children putting in dozens of hours of physical and creative energy. Chip even put in many of the floorboards himself, save where sloped flooring posed a challenge more suitable for a general contractor than a photographer.

Chip and Tasha Smith of Cross Grand Studio, 3304 Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO. Photo by Brian Adler.
Chip and Tasha Smith of Cross Grand.

“Cross Grand represents where I am from.”

Chip Smith

According to Chip, there has never been a better time to be starting a business in Dutchtown. With the Community Improvement District (CID), Downtown Dutchtown, and Neighborhood Innovation Center nearby, there is a large group of community-oriented individuals collaborating to support the neighborhood. Coupled with the incredible amount of development nearby and beginning to spill into Dutchtown itself, the “South Sider” Chip witnessed all these architecturally gorgeous buildings and storefronts and saw nothing but potential. Then he met the people and the community in Dutchtown, one of St. Louis’ most dense communities in terms of population, and saw the value of a strong and supportive community, both in terms of the residents nearby and the support infrastructure described above.

Every step of the way, Cross Grand found encouragement and support from the Dutchtown community. John Chen, founder of the Neighborhood Improvement Center just a block further East on Meramec, has advised on certain elements of the project and provided as much support as he can as the owner of the building.

The potential of Dutchtown is readily apparent as soon as you enter the neighborhood. There is an expansive infrastructure already in place comprised of incredible, historical housing stock, a walkable street grid, businesses that have been around for nearly a century, and critical retail corridors on Grand and Meramec. The Meramec corridor in particular evokes a similar feeling to Manchester in parts of The Grove, or even parts of Maplewood. A dense cluster of restaurants, boutiques, and age-old retailers sit in 100+ year old, brick-clad buildings with mansard roofs with ample room for outdoor dining.

Cross Grand Studio, 3304 Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO. Photo by Brian Adler.
Cross Grand Studio. Photo by Brian Adler

That’s not to say that they didn’t need to put in the work to make their storefront shine. To see the incredible transformation of the space, look no further than these photos Chip provided of the space before they saw its true potential. Drop ceiling hid the gorgeous ceiling pattern visible today, and the floor was in need a complete refresh. Perhaps someone could have envisioned an office or small store, but to imagine and create the Instagram-worthy color scheme and modern aesthetics is a true feat.

Pre-renovation interior of Cross Grand Studio, 3304 Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO. Photo by Chip Smith.
Pre-renovation interior of Cross Grand Studio, 3304 Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO. Photo by Chip Smith.

With Cross Grand, Chip and Tasha are combining their interests into a full service experience for creators like themselves in Dutchtown. Chip now does most of the video and photography work in the community, with many of his photos available on DutchtownSTL.org (see here and here for examples of Chip’s work in Dutchtown). Tasha, with lots of events in the small event world, and Chip with photography and videography, found that they could create a space that catered to both needs. They plan to bring other neighborhood creators into the studio in addition to the members of the community they hope will view their work, take photos, or hold small events there.

Chip hopes that the curated space will be a destination for nearby residents to get creative and see themselves in a new light. Far from only shooting weddings, Cross Grand will offer photo sessions, photo books, and event space. Chip is also looking for ways to capitalize off of the unique style that’s new to the Dutchtown neighborhood. Whether it is featuring the work of local artists or perhaps catering to a podcast and vlogger community, Cross Grand has a special space and a set of services that Dutchtown previously lacked.

Chip Smith in the studio of Cross Grand, 3304 Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
Chip Smith at Cross Grand’s studio. Photo by Brian Adler.

Grateful for their community support from the CID, DT2, Thomas Dunn Learning Center, and the Neighborhood Innovation Center, CrossGrand owners Chip and Tasha are plainly excited to finally bring their dream to the community. To have a space to bring clients besides Starbucks, meet their neighbors who just walk in the door, and to show their kids the product of hard work are things that make Chip extremely proud and eager about this space.

The Grand Opening

Cross Grand is set to open to the public this Wednesday, October 21st with a Grand Opening and After Hours Happy Hour co-hosted by Downtown Dutchtown. The event will feature Chip’s first photo book, a Dutchtown/CrossGrand hoodie collaboration on display, a drummer playing live music, and possibly discounted packages in addition to the hoodies and photos being on sale. Members of the Dutchtown community and beyond are encouraged to stop by and witness all that Cross Grand has to offer. The event will take place from 5:30pm to 7:00pm and visitors are encouraged to meet neighbors and stick around for a drink.

“Cross Grand is here to stay. We are going to add value to this neighborhood.”

Chip Smith

Small business entries speak volumes about a neighborhood’s trajectory, and their value is even higher in the middle of an elongated pandemic. Cross Grand is a project that rose from the community itself. It does not pad the pockets of national developer groups bringing in luxury units with no affordable housing, raze historical architecture, or displace other residents or businesses. That may sound like a low bar, but often developments in St. Louis do all those things, and while they can still offer plenty of intrinsic benefits, real neighborhood improvement and community stabilization comes from within and supports its residents.

Small businesses are the heart of truly equitable economic development that lifts communities up. The infrastructure provided in Dutchtown by community organizations is beginning to show what it is capable of. Combined with the incredible built environment, the nearby ecosystem is poised to keep pushing Dutchtown in the right direction with a focus on a community driven approach. While not as flashy as a 300-unit tower or several phase development, small businesses driven and supported by their communities have an incredible impact and make urban areas shine.

Cross Grand's studio at 3304 Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
Cross Grand’s entry. Photo by Brian Adler

Thank you to Missouri Metro for visiting Dutchtown and allowing us to publish the first edition of their Small Business Series. You can find more of Missouri Metro at Missouri-Metro.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The University of Missouri Extension and Missouri Small Business Development Center offer a variety of free and low-cost training and events for business owners and start-ups. The webinars cover a wide range of topics including how to write a business plan, learning Quickbooks, and securing government contracts.

Of particular interest for many small businesses, October 7th will feature a PPP Loan repayment webinar.

Check out their full October schedule and be sure to bookmark the page for easy access to these great resources!

Have you come across a great resource that could help Dutchtown small businesses? Let us know about it by emailing info@dutchtownstl.org.

Top photo: Pies and Surprise located at the Urban Eats Neighborhood Food Hall in Downtown Dutchtown. Support your Dutchtown small businesses!

This post originally appeared on DutchtownSTL.org.

Join DT2 • Downtown Dutchtown at the Neighborhood Innovation Center on Saturday, September 26th for the next Dutchtown Movie Night!

This month we’ll be showing 42, the story of Jackie Robinson as portrayed by Chadwick Boseman. This is an outdoor event, and we’ll project the movie on the side of the building next door. Bring a chair and set yourself up in the parking lot. The movie will start at dark.

If you’re hungry, head a couple doors down to the Urban Eats Neighborhood FoodHall and grab some Juanita’s Creole Soul Cafe, Pies and Surprise, or Tacos La Jefa. They’ll be open until 7:30pm. You’re also welcome to bring your own snacks and drinks.

Let us know you’re coming on the Facebook event page, and make sure to share with your friends and neighbors!

The movie is rated PG-13. Some content may not be suitable for all audiences. Social distancing measures will be in place and masks are required when away from your seat.

The next DT2 After Hours is at Diana’s Boutique on Wednesday, September 16th beginning at 5:30pm. DT2 hosts a monthly (pandemic-permitting) happy hour that focuses on Dutchtown businesses.

Diana’s Boutique just recently relocated to 3316 Meramec Street from a location a little further east on Meramec. Come by to check out the new, larger space and enjoy beer, wine, and soft drinks on the house! Diana’s will also be offering 25% off purchases during After Hours.

Meet Diana

Diana Quezada, the owner of Diana’s Boutique, sits on the UrbanMain Steering Committee that is working to plan the future of Downtown Dutchtown. Diana and her family came to America from Mexico City 15 years ago.

“I wanted to open my retail store because it’s been my dream since I was little to be involved with fashion,” says Diana. She opened her shop four years ago and is excited about her new, bigger location. Diana prides herself on carrying a diverse selection of clothing in all colors, sizes, and styles, with unique items you won’t find anywhere else.

“I love the area and people around here. I dream and I would love to grow my business and inspire other people and offer jobs in the future.” Away from the shop, Diana likes to spend time with her family and travel, visiting beaches, hiking, and getting to know new places.

After Hours + UrbanMain

In addition to the regular After Hours festivities, Downtown Dutchtown is also hosting representatives from Missouri Main Street Connection. Main Street is working with DT2, the Dutchtown CID, and other neighborhood stakeholders on the UrbanMain initiative in Downtown Dutchtown.

The Main Street representatives will be at the Neighborhood Innovation Center, just a block down the street from Diana’s, and they’re looking for feedback from the neighbors. Stop by and tell them what you’d like to see for the future of Downtown Dutchtown. If you can’t attend Wednesday evening, there are three other input sessions during the week.

Social Distancing: Spread Out on Meramec

While we hope to see a lot of you on Wednesday, we also want to make sure we’re taking precautions to protect your health during the pandemic. We’re asking that you take some time to stroll down Meramec to help maintain social distancing and to see what else is going on in Downtown Dutchtown.

Neighborhood Innovation Center

Along with our guests from Missouri Main Street, the NIC will also have representatives from DT2 and other neighborhood organizations to share community resources (and more drinks). After you share your input on the UrbanMain program, come see what else your Dutchtown neighborhood organizations have been up to.

Urban Eats Neighborhood FoodHall

Between Diana’s and the NIC, you can stop into the Urban Eats Neighborhood FoodHall to grab a bite to eat. Visit Juanita’s Creole Soul Cafe for dinner or Pies and Surprise for a sweet treat.


The Missouri UrbanMain Pilot Program is a joint effort between Downtown Dutchtown (DT2), the City of St. Louis, the Missouri Department of Economic Development, and Missouri Main Street Connection.

This post originally appeared on DutchtownSTL.org.

Join us in Marquette Park on Saturday, August 22nd for the final Dutchtown Movie Night of the summer! This time around we’ll be showing Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse on the 22-foot inflatable big screen! We’ll open up at 7:30pm, and the movie will start at dark.

If you haven’t seen Into the Spiderverse already, check out the trailer below:

We’ll be out on the hill in front of the Marquette Park Field House. Bring your chairs and blankets. You’re welcome to bring snacks of your own, but we’ll also have food trucks on hand on the lower lot next to the Field House.

Come out a little bit before dark to visit with some of our community organizations. Get registered to vote. Find information about block organizing from DT2 • Downtown Dutchtown and the Dutchtown CID, along with the Urban League’s Federation of Block Units. Dutchtown South Community Corporation will be there to tell you about their textile recycling program.

We also ask that you wear a mask and practice safe social distancing when away from your seat. We will have hand sanitizer and extra masks available if you need them.

Dutchtown Movie Nights are sponsored by AB InBev, DT2 • Downtown Dutchtown, Dutchtown Community Improvement District, Dutchtown South Community Corporation, Gene Slay’s Girls and Boys Club of St. Louis, Habitat for Humanity St. Louis, Lutheran Development Group, Original Crusoe’s Restaurant, St. Anthony of Padua, Thomas Dunn Learning Center, and Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation.

This post originally appeared on DutchtownSTL.org.

Flyer for the Virginia Avenue Block Meeting on Friday, August 7th in Dutchtown.

On Friday, August 7th, residents and business owners from the 4300 and 4400 blocks of Virginia Avenue will meet at Starz Salon, 4445 Virginia in the backyard. These neighbors want to begin forming an organized and cohesive block club. You’re welcome to join from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. Meet the neighbors, along with residents from other nearby and recently organized blocks, plus representatives from DT2 • Downtown Dutchtown and the Dutchtown Community Improvement District.

How Block Organizing Starts

A growing group of neighbors on Virginia began talking about issues on their blocks — trash on the street and in the alleys, crime, and other nuisance activities nearby. What started with an informal plan for a neighborhood cleanup evolved into a desire to create an organized and permanent coalition for neighbors to strengthen and improve their corner of Dutchtown.

They’re not the first blocks in Dutchtown to organize. It usually starts organically. A few neighbors on each others’ porches discussing experiences and some loose ideas will turn into a few more neighbors cleaning up the alley. Then they’ll plan a block party that gets everyone onto the street, meeting and mingling, often for their neighbors for the first time. They exchange phone numbers and emails. They talk more and look out for each other. The momentum grows.

What Happens Next

This is how things started on the 4200 block of Louisiana, the 3500 block of Kingsland Court, and certainly others over the years throughout Greater Dutchtown. What started as a few neighbors casually interacting became a tight network of residents who communicate, plan, and protect each other.

Planning the Future of Block Organizing

DT2 • Downtown Dutchtown and DutchtownSTL.org seek to strengthen these nascent block organizations, facilitate communication, and build a template for other blocks to follow. With the experience of neighbors already involved, we hope to create a straightforward model that helps interested blocks quickly get organized.

Does your block already have an organization that fits the bill? Would you like it to? Get in touch with us and help to plan for the future of block organizing in Dutchtown.

You can also meet us tonight at Starz Salon for refreshments and discussion about how your block can get involved. Make sure to be safe and bring your mask along with your ideas and questions!


Top photo by Paul Sableman.

This post originally appeared on Dutchtown CID.

The Dutchtown Community Improvement District introduced new sidewalk furniture along Meramec Street on Tuesday during the Shades of Summer rollout event. The vividly colored tables, chairs, and umbrellas bring a splash of color to Downtown Dutchtown.

New sidewalk furniture in front of Dutchtown South Community Corporation on Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown.

Participating shop owners will set up the furniture when they open and take it down when they close. Having the furniture out will draw attention, encourage pedestrian traffic, and announce that Dutchtown is open for business.

New sidewalk furniture in front of Urban Eats on Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown.

Attendees at the Shades of Summer event also got to sample treats from Juanita’s Creole Soul Cafe, Pies & Surprise, and Perfectly Pastry, three of the new tenants in the Urban Eats Food Hall. Juanita’s Creole Soul Cafe and Pies & Surprise will hold their grand opening on Saturday, August 1st. Perfectly Pastry plans to officially open in the fall.

New sidewalk furniture in front of the Tawakal Halal Store on Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown.

Visitors also got to see a revamped storefront at the Tawakal Halal Store at 3308 Meramec. With help from the Dutchtown CID and designers Sara Schipowski, Michael Jones, and Vanessa McBride, the store has been updated with a new sign, window displays, and a new door. The CID plans to assist with additional storefront updates throughout the district.

New sidewalk furniture in front of Greenfield Flooring on Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown.

It’s an exciting time in Downtown Dutchtown! New businesses and new concepts are coming to Meramec Street. The UrbanMain Initiative, a collaboration between DT2 • Downtown Dutchtown and Missouri Main Street Connection, continues to pursue a brighter future for the neighborhood. We continue to urge you to come for a visit and see what’s happening in Downtown Dutchtown!

This post originally appeared on Dutchtown CID.

The Dutchtown Community Improvement District introduced new sidewalk furniture along Meramec Street on Tuesday during the Shades of Summer rollout event. The vividly colored tables, chairs, and umbrellas bring a splash of color to Downtown Dutchtown.

New sidewalk furniture in front of Dutchtown South Community Corporation on Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown.

Participating shop owners will set up the furniture when they open and take it down when they close. Having the furniture out will draw attention, encourage pedestrian traffic, and announce that Dutchtown is open for business.

New sidewalk furniture in front of Urban Eats on Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown.

Attendees at the Shades of Summer event also got to sample treats from Juanita’s Creole Soul Cafe, Pies & Surprise, and Perfectly Pastry, three of the new tenants in the Urban Eats Food Hall. Juanita’s Creole Soul Cafe and Pies & Surprise will hold their grand opening on Saturday, August 1st. Perfectly Pastry plans to officially open in the fall.

New sidewalk furniture in front of the Tawakal Halal Store on Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown.

Visitors also got to see a revamped storefront at the Tawakal Halal Store at 3308 Meramec. With help from the Dutchtown CID and designers Sara Schipkowski, Michael Jones, and Vanessa McBride, the store has been updated with a new sign, window displays, and a new door. The CID plans to assist with additional storefront updates throughout the district.

New sidewalk furniture in front of Greenfield Flooring on Meramec Street in Downtown Dutchtown.

It’s an exciting time in Downtown Dutchtown! New businesses and new concepts are coming to Meramec Street. The UrbanMain Initiative, a collaboration between DT2 • Downtown Dutchtown and Missouri Main Street Connection, continues to pursue a brighter future for the neighborhood. We continue to urge you to come for a visit and see what’s happening in Downtown Dutchtown!

This post originally appeared on Dutchtown CID.

The Dutchtown Community Improvement District is bringing vibrancy to Downtown Dutchtown this summer! On Tuesday, July 28th, join us as we roll out colorful new tables, chairs, and umbrellas along Meramec Street. Come have a seat and take our new furniture for a test drive!

The sidewalk furniture will add a splash of color to the district and create a more inviting atmosphere for neighbors and passers-by. We hope this leads to increased foot traffic, engaged neighbors and visitors, and ultimately greater occupancy in the district.

In addition to the furniture, the revamped Urban Eats Food Hall will be introducing three of its new resident vendors — Juanita’s Creole Soul Café, Perfectly Pastry, and Pies and Surprise — plus bartenders from the Original Crusoe’s slinging drinks. Come get a taste of the new flavors coming soon to Dutchtown!

The introduction goes on from 5:30pm to 7pm. Visit the Facebook event page to let us know you’re coming and to share with your neighbors.

This post originally appeared on DutchtownSTL.org.

The next Dutchtown Movie Night is coming up on Saturday, July 25th! This time around, we’ll be showing the animated adventure Spies in Disguise featuring the voice of Will Smith.

The event begins at 7:30pm. Arrive promptly to claim your spot on the hill! We’ll also have food trucks, community activities, and more.

The movie will be projected on the inflatable 22 foot big screen on the hill in front of the Field House. Bring a chair or a blanket to sit on. Once it gets dark (around 8:30pm), we’ll start the movie.

Tell your family and friends and neighbors about this fun, family-friendly event! Go to the Facebook event page to share and invite people. For info about more movie nights this summer, go to dutchtownstl.org/movienight or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The 2020 Dutchtown Movie Nights are sponsored by AB InBev, DT2 • Downtown Dutchtown, Dutchtown Community Improvement District, Dutchtown South Community Corporation, Gene Slay’s Girls and Boys Club of St. Louis, Habitat for Humanity St. Louis, Lutheran Development Group, Original Crusoe’s Restaurant, St. Anthony of Padua, Thomas Dunn Learning Center, and Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation.