By Trish Muyco-Tobin
Approximately 8,000 people call the City of Maplewood home. Bordered by St. Louis City to the east, Webster Groves to the south, Brentwood to the west and Richmond Heights to the north, Maplewood’s ideal mid-County location is getting the attention of more and more young professionals, restaurateurs and other small business owners—and even hipsters—who are leading a community revival of sorts for this erstwhile bedroom community.
It’s been said that Maplewood, established at the turn of the 20th century, was named for the maple trees that lined the streets. Much of its 1.56 square miles belonged to landowner Charles Gratiot, who came to America from Switzerland in 1752. Gratiot bequeathed the land to his children upon his death in 1817. Two years later, a New Jersey man named James Sutton moved to St. Louis to work with his brother, John, who was a locksmith. Sutton, who also dabbled in real estate, purchased 334 acres from the Gratiot family in 1826. He later added 51 acres to the purchase. Sutton’s property, along with land from a Frenchman named Jean Baptiste Bruno and acreage owned by the Rannells family, combined to make up the area that would become Maplewood.
Maplewood emerged as one of St. Louis’ top suburbs in the 1920s, thriving commercially with more than 250 established retail stores. The town benefited from post-war prosperity in the 1950s, as well, pushing its population to 14,000 residents. But the overall economic boom also saw the rise of the suburban mall—unfortunately, not in Maplewood—and put a severe strain on the small businesses that set up shop in the community. The ensuing decades would see Maplewood’s population (and property values) steadily drop as an increasing number of families moved westward.
But in recent years, there are signs that Maplewood is on the upswing. While a few big-box stores have taken over along Hanley Road, there’s also a burgeoning hip art scene, coupled with new restaurant and specialty shop openings, that are drawing people back. Downtown Maplewood has become a year-round destination for its offbeat calendar offerings such as Let Them Eat Art in the summer and the Prost! beer and food festival in the fall. Later this month, the city’s popular Sweet Tooth Tour will take place, offering self-guided tours of some of Maplewood’s most sugary shops.
THE FIFTH ANNUAL MAPLEWOOD SWEET TOOTH TOUR
Saturday, Jan. 27, from noon to 5 p.m.
Enjoy handcrafted samples from 15 food purveyors, including Pie Oh My!, Strange Donuts, Boardwalk Waffles & Ice Cream and Kakao Chocolate, during this self-guided tour.
Tickets are $21 each, and can be purchased at any of the host locations or on eventbrite.com
IN AND AROUND MAPLEWOOD
Foundation Grounds The focus is on local and organic at this quaint, colorful space, occupying prime real estate at the corner of Manchester Road and Marshall Avenue. Aside from an excellent brew selection, the shop also offers fresh-baked pastries, salads with house-made dressing, and sandwiches, burritos and brunch items made with local eggs. Another plus? It’s a choice spot for people-watching. foundationgrounds.com
Schlafly Bottleworks They’re not kidding when they tell you to arrive hungry and thirsty at Schlafly Bottleworks. The restaurant and working brewery is a popular spot for families and big groups looking for a casual spot that serves some serious eats and drinks. The brewery occupies 23,000 square feet of the building space and brews more than 20 different styles of beer, many of which can be ordered on draft. And the menu is nothing to sneer at: hand-tossed Kölsch-dough pizzas with fancy toppings, sandwiches on house-baked breads, and hearty entrées—all with fresh ingredients, many of them locally sourced. schlafly.com/bottleworks
Strange Donuts Just perusing the donut display will bring a smile to your face, with over-the-top flavors like Bubble Gum, Cracker Jack and Chicken & Waffles. The menu changes with the seasons—and apparently, on the baker’s whim. They have classic “dones,” as well—glazed, rainbow, jelly-filled—that that are available all the time. Strange Donuts was among the first in town to usher in the “donut craze,” and has become a late-night destination on weekends for St. Louisans looking for a sweet and decadent end-of-the-evening treat. strangedonuts.com