How Community Support Saved 3 St. Louis-Area Businesses
Earlier this year, Steve’s Hot Dogs announced it was calling it quits after an 11-year run. But the outpouring that followed its closure announcement led directly to a new day for the eatery.
As owner Steve Ewing explained on St. Louis on the Air, the big crowds in what he’d intended as the restaurant’s final week gave him a change of heart.
“The last couple of days, I’m starting to see people just pour out. We had lines down the streets. I’m starting to see tons of kids, and the parents with their kids, and the people who I’d seen for many years,” Ewing recalled. “And that’s when I’m like, ‘It would be really cool if we didn’t have to close this thing down.'”
Investment from Ewing’s longtime friend Danni Eickenhorst turned his idea to a reality. Steve’s Hot Dogs now plans to reopen Feb. 26.
It’s not the only local business to experience a remarkable reversal of fortune. Last year, the West End Grill and Pub was similarly slated for closure — and also saw a community outpouring. Fifteen neighbors ended up becoming investors in the restaurant, facilitating its renovation and rebirth. And in Belleville, after Memorial Hospital announced it would close Belleville Health and Sports Center, members formed a not-for-profit organization to take over the fitness center and keep it open.
Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air saw William Roth, co-owner of West End Grill and Pub, and Patrick Mathis, the local attorney who’s become chairman of the board for the new Belleville Community Health Club, in conversation with Ewing.
Roth and Mathis discussed how they brought their businesses back from the brink and what they learned from the experience. One key: getting the community to feel a sense of ownership.
At West End Grill and Pub, that comes from a new focus on events where neighbors can mingle, not just eat, Roth explained.
“We try to engage the community as a community gathering place, rather than just trying to sell them something,” he said, citing family-style wine dinners and regular “brews and books” conversations with authors.
And in Belleville, Mathis explained that his board now holds regular open meetings with members.
“We always talk about it as ‘our club,’” he said. “We’ve solicited members’ input, what they’d like to see in class, what they’d like to see in new programs. We’ve had all kinds of suggestions. … It’s been a very open process. And the more inclusive we are, I think the better it is for us as a group to succeed.”
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.
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