A pair of businesses expected to open within the next few months in Creve Coeur have not exactly had the welcome mat extended by some city residents.
Red Racks, a thrift store operated by Disabled American Veterans, could be open by Memorial Day, and .
Creve Coeur officials have already voiced their disappointment with the fact that Red Racks, which operates as a non-profit, will not generate sales tax revenue at an intersection which was improved under a Transportation Development District (TDD) project under the premise of collecting sales tax revenue as a way of paying for a realigned street and a traffic light to improve safety. Customers at the relocated Walgreens across the street do contribute to the TDD.
But during an informal gathering with residents and city officials at the Creve Coeur Government Center Thursday, one woman said she was concerned that the businesses would encourage others like them to the city. While she said she was "not trying to make this an untouchable place," she did voice concern that ALDI and Red Racks would appeal to a "lower class" of customers.
"We were all pretty blindsided," the woman added about word that the businesses were coming, and asked city officials to publish a list of new businesses opening. The city's newsletter does publish actions taken by city council and planning and zoning officials on conditional use permits for businesses, and a city business newsletter also indicates new businesses that are open.
Patch first reported news of the pending arrival of ALDI in December after whispers about it first popped up last spring.
Several residents present, including Les Steinberg and newly elected Ward 2 Councilwoman Ellen Lawrence spoke in support of the ALDI, mentioning that not all stores look alike depending on their location.
When asked about the criticism, Rob Jeffries, a Regional Division VP for ALDI said in a written statement that Creve Coeur was targeted because of a convenient location near shoppers in a high traffic area. The statement added that the store appeals to "smart shoppers" with the chain seeing 25 million customers monthly.
City Administrator Mark Perkins noted Thursday that the Red Racks is an approved use for the site, and that while it was the hope that whatever new business landed where Walgreens used to be would tear down the existing structure and build something new, city officials were working to make sure that the exisiting property does get brought up to code.
Mayor Glantz said he and other city officials have "begged, borrowed and pleaded" with Red Racks to be more discreet about the business.
Update: In commenting on the story, Mayor Glantz noted below that he was referring to the signage at the business.
Doug DePew, GM of the the DAV's thrift stores in Missouri, was in Creve Coeur Thursday meeting with the store's manager as work continues toward opening. DePew said Creve Coeur officials told him that signage, similar to what exists at the Red Racks location in Ballwin, including interior signage, would not be allowed here.
But outside of city officials and a few neighbors, DePew said reaction was positive. He described a "cutting edge" operation and that he found it ironic that people are worried the business would be a detriment to the community because the type of customer they're looking to attract are people in the local community. DePew spoke of the need to "break stereotypes of what a thift store is, what it looks like and who patronizes them."
"We're bright, we're clean, we're well-staffed," he said, adding that the shops "smell like a regular department store...we love the city, we think it's a great city," DePew said.
Red Racks and ALDI did have another defender at Thursday's get-together. "The neighborhood hasn't gone to pot. Let's give them a chance," Peggy Gibstine, a 39 year resident said to applause.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misidentified a resident who spoke at this event. Patch apologies for any inconvenience and confusion.