Promoting St. Louis’ Quirks

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently interviewed brothers Randy and Jeff Vines (MA, Media Communications, 2006) about the company they both own and operate, STL Style.

The company produces T-shirts, posters, messenger bags and paraphernalia that focus on the people and places in St. Louis. Here’s a copy of the conversation as it ran in the Post-Dispatch:

Your tagline is “You can’t spell Style without STL.” What do you say to people who make fun of St. Louis:

Randy: Most of the negative comments come from ignorance. A lot of people who are down on the city are maybe suburbanites who don’t take the time to know and love the city. There are a lot of misconceptions out there.

But you both grew up in Creve Coeur …

Jeff: Yes, but we fell in love with the city early. We would take the bistate bus into the city in the early ’90s when the city wasn’t so great. We ended up producing an hourlong Saturday TV show on Double Helix television Channel 21 called the “XYZ” show. It included live interviews, comedy skits, call-ins and it was all about the city. That was a unique experience as high schoolers that solidified our love of St. Louis.

Randy: Our dad used to drive us into the city and ride around his old north side neighborhood. He would point out the old bowling alley, the street cars, the stores and shops, and he painted this picture of an urban utopia. Even though things looked bombed out, we saw the potential.

What makes you St. Louis geeks?

Randy: We were the nerds who would read books and books about the city history and how big St. Louis was compared to other cities and other trivia.

Jeff: We belong to a group called City Affair that hosts a monthly discussion on city issues that’s informal and social. … And for the third year we are going to GLUE (Great Lakes Urban Exchange) in Cleveland. It’s an annual conference for a loose collective of young active city advocates from Detroit, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee — and other cities that are not usually considered trendy or sexy.

So is the “Highway Farty” (a South City pronunciation of Highway 40) T-shirt making fun of the city or celebrating it?

Randy: What fun is a city that can’t poke fun at itself? That’s our aim. We have our quirks; let’s embrace them.

Jeff: Our best-selling shirt is the “Fo’ Chouteau” (pronounced as only St. Louisans do “fo-show-do,” as in the urban colloquial expression “For sure” or “Yes, it sure is.”)

So your business promoting the city is now your full-time job?

Jeff: As of January, I left my old job working in marketing and sales at a retro apparel company in University City because they thought (STL Style) was a conflict of interest and then Randy left his job as director of marketing for a housing company a few months ago. We value older communities, and St. Louis in particular, so it was just the right decision.