Time and again, we get caught up in our routines: shopping at the same stores, dining at the same restaurants and revisiting the places in our neighborhoods that we frequent so often. It’s these places that make us want to call our neighborhoods home, according to Amanda Doyle, author of A Locally Produced Guidebook to St. Louis, which offers a look at communities throughout St. Louis, from Wentzville and the Lake St. Louis area in the west over to Edwardsville and Belleville in the east.
“If you came to my house on a Saturday morning, I’d want to take you to the farmers market, then hit the coffee shop, walk the shops and restaurants of South Grand…” notes Doyle in the preface. But she provides insights about neighborhoods including A Bite to Eat, Something to Drink, Festivities, Exercise, and Arts, Entertainment & Education that might make a curious St. Louisan want to wander outside of familiar stomping grounds.
“It’s funny how we get stuck in our ruts, and I’m totally guilty of the same thing,” Doyle admits. “I just love my Tower Grove South neighborhood. To know that I can go long stretches of time without having to get into my car to do something is just awesome! I can walk to get my haircut, to several great restaurants, to the park, Local Harvest Grocery and Café—now that’s the kind of place where there’s this sense of ownership that the neighbors feel. You walk in, and you run into people who are just so happy to be there. But in writing this book, I got to revisit a lot of places where I hadn’t been to in a long time and places where I had never been before.”
One surprise that Doyle found along the way was the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in North St. Louis County. “To me, it’s one of the most stunning places in St. Louis—just the amount of undeveloped land—the wildness— and the amazing natural beauty that’s there. And you’re really within the shadow of the arch,” she explains. “I wanted to do this book to highlight the corner bar, the little boutique that’s in your neighborhood that no one would ever find and pocket parks that exist. People love to tell you about them, and people love to tell you their insider tips of their own neighborhood. That’s what I was hoping to share.”
While Doyle’s daily ‘stomping ground’ is South City, the Central Corridor and downtown, she says she enjoyed getting to know other communities better. “I really like the Ferguson-Florissant area because there is such great architecture and so many little neighborhoods with a strong sense of community,” she says. “And Cherokee Street is one of my favorite places in St. Louis. There’s just so much energy and an amazing mix of demographics. Some of the residents have lived there for decades, so they’re very invested in the community. Also, Main Street St. Charles is a place where I love to take people from out of town because it has stayed so local. Somewhere else, it might have a theme-parky feel, but the river is right there—so much of St. Charles is so pretty, especially out in the county beyond the edges of development.”
When Doyle was asked by her publisher, Reedy Press, to consider someone to write the forward of her book, she says only one name came to mind. “I tried to think about who in St. Louis really gets the neighborhood concept, who really understands what a neighborhood can mean to people and how it can really become a part of a person’s identity. Of course, I immediately thought of Joe Edwards. I have great respect for his work—he has done well by doing good. He has stayed true to his vision, and he has provided such a handout to others in sharing his expertise and his experience."