There’s a new kind of general store in town: Civil Alchemy. Located along Big Bend Boulevard in the heart of Webster Groves, Civil Alchemy is a friendly neighborhood stop with all the unique essentials for your everyday lifestyle. “We strive to be timeless, sturdy and functional – but also aesthetically pleasing,” says founder and owner Kelley Barr. “Our vision is to bridge the gap between items looking good and being useful.”
Barr, who has more than 25 years of experience in the retail arena, from product design to curation, is the founder and former owner of St. Louis-based K. Hall Studio, a 20-year-old handcrafted personal-care goods company, which she and her husband, John, sold in 2015. As business-savvy parents to five children, the Barrs grew the K. Hall brand from their basement to international success, all through what they call a commitment to simple, ethical and generous living and quality, natural and recyclable products. “After selling K. Hall … and taking a retail hiatus, we were ready to work in a smaller, more personal environment,” Barr says.
With Civil Alchemy, Barr is back in the curated product game – this time, with that decidedly more personal approach. “We wanted to create a retail space that focused on functionality, quality and aesthetic – and we wanted to do it in our neighborhood, [Webster Groves],” Barr says. “We were really attracted to the corner stores or general stores that have slowly disappeared. There is an element of customer-friendliness, authenticity and purity that is really unique to Main Street, and we felt there was a craving for this in our community.”
Barr says the name Civil Alchemy refers to “a civic responsibility to our neighborhood and our classic Main Street to curate and create simple goods [that] are functional, consumable or enjoyable – yet enlightened [and] meant to inspire those everyday functions with a positive experience by offering items for your home, your events and your hobbies.”
The lifestyle retailer, which officially opened in September, offers a curated collection from housewares and apparel to specialty foods and beverages. “A few [U.S.-made] items that we are very excited about are Steele Canvas [baskets and tote bags] and our [Civil Alchemy] collection of pure linen sheets, towels and other bedding,” Barr says. “We also offer wool-felted rugs, letterpress stationery and felt bags of our own designs.”
Although many of the shop’s products are made in the U.S., Civil Alchemy also has a global flavor, with home décor sourced from Japan, as well as linens from Lithuania and Belgium; pottery from the United Kingdom and France; slippers from Morocco; cleaning tools from Germany; wool from Nepal; and brass, glass, jewelry and leather from India.
Another unique aspect of the shop is its fresh flower bar, where customers can create floral arrangements in their own vases or one from the store’s selection, Barr adds.
And for the new year, Barr says customers should keep their eyes peeled for some new Civil Alchemy-brand products, which will include the expansion of its specialty food and beverage line of jams, syrups and chocolates, with the debut of Civil Alchemy Truly Floral Blue #5 Gin. “We are currently waiting on approval to sell, but we already have a very long preorder list,” she notes.
The neighborhood store also has events, including workshops, tastings and classes, in the works for spring, as well as an expanded outdoor living collection hitting its shelves, Barr says. “We are an outdoor-loving family, and … I feel it adds so much to real life and happiness, closing the circle of this lifestyle Main Street general store.”
In addition to the general store, the Barrs have extended their neighborhood footprint with the purchase of multiple other occupied and unoccupied retail spaces along Webster Groves’ main thoroughfare of Big Bend Boulevard. This spring, Barr will be assisting her husband as he opens The Frisco Barroom, a rustic American, corner tavern-style restaurant and bar complete with an outdoor beer garden and rooftop deck, at 8110 Big Bend Blvd. Although plans for the other spaces are still “in the think tank,” Barr says there’s more to come: “Stay tuned!”
Civil Alchemy, 8154 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves, 314-801-7577, civilalchemy.com