Loop Chained: The arrival of Noodles & Company and Chipotle has some Delmar business owners wondering where it will end.
By Ellis E. Conklin
Published: April 25, 2007
Many merchants along the six-block-long Delmar Loop seem to fancy themselves as exotic little fish, an eclectic and contented school of small entrepreneurs — that is, until an oversize guppy or two gets added to their aquarium. When that happens, the little fish fret and claim their waters have been fouled.
For now the dreaded guppies are Chipotle Mexican Grill and Noodles & Company, two Colorado-based chain restaurants that will be moving into the building currently occupied by Streetside Records, a Loop mainstay for decades. Late last month the University City Council granted conditional-use permits to the eateries, a decision that fomented a swiftly organized revolt to place a cap on the number of formula restaurants and retail chains that can be allowed to do business in the Loop.
Such rebellions are nothing new among the Loop's specialty set. When Qdoba Mexican Grill moved to Delmar a couple of years ago, sound and fury ensued. But this time, some merchants insist, the stakes are higher.
"You have to wonder whether we've reached a tipping point now — that we've diluted the characteristics that make the Loop a unique destination," says Andy Ayers, owner of Riddles Penultimate Café & Wine Bar. "We're getting to the point where people will say, 'We might as well stay in Fenton or Creve Coeur or Chesterfield,' because we won't be any different than they are. "
Adds Kelly von Plonski, owner of Subterranean Books: "People will stop coming when it's no longer a distinct place. I get so many people who come here from big cities like Manhattan and Chicago and say, 'It's so nice to see places like this, because we're losing them where we live.'"
Rick Fessler, co-owner of Brandt's Café, says placing a cap on chains is badly needed. "It's an absolutely great idea. That's what the Loop is all about — places to go that are small and locally owned."
"There's no doubt that we're seeing a trend in the chain direction," offers Carrie Drda, owner of the Phoenix Rising gift shop.
Full Story: http://www.riverfronttimes.com/2007-04- ... p-chained/