It’s been a long weekend and I’m exhausted, but I like the situation my girlfriend finds herself in now. She has an apartment in the Holly Hills neighborhood in south St. Louis.Holly Hills is a pretty swanky place to live, if you have a house. The apartment situation is a bit different. A comparable one-bedroom apartment in the working-class suburb where I live would cost about $200 a month more than what she’s paying, and some of her utilities are included. You won’t find that in Mehlville. What you’re more likely to find is an apartment like the one where I lived for nearly five years, which was in a fairly safe neighborhood, but the building was about 20 years old and was falling apart, in spite of them wanting $550-$575 a month for a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen so small you couldn’t have both the fridge and the oven doors open at the same time.
And I noticed, as I looked down Gravois Ave. towards Holly Hills Ave. from Loughborough, that this neighborhood still has class. A block up the street is an old sign that reads 4 Sports & More. Twenty years ago, that was called The Baseball Card Store. The name of the guy who owned it escapes me, but I remember going there frequently to buy baseball cards. He retired about 10 years ago. Under the new ownership, the shop didn’t last long. It’s a shame, really.
Next door is what used to be a Rexall drugstore. I don’t know if the Rexall was still there 20 years ago. It’s a payday loans place now, a sign of the times. It wasn’t as easy to get a credit line 20 years ago, so it wasn’t as easy to overextend yourself.
On the end of the strip is an old-fashioned hardware store. The couple who own it are getting up in years so I don’t know how long it’ll still be there. It’ll be a shame if it closes. It’s not like those big box stores. Those two know exactly where everything is in their store, and they can tell you exactly what to do with it. No, I’m not being impolite. The two of them really are handy. And from what I can tell, she’s the handier of the two.
Across the street, there’s Elicia’s Pizza. It’s a local chain that serves up St. Louis-style pizza. It’s ultra-thin and sliced square. As far as famous St. Louis chains, it probably ranks fourth, and it may be a distant fourth, in numbers and fame. Quality-wise, I’d rank it second behind Fortel’s. We ordered pizza from there on Saturday. I kid you not, they had it ready in less than 10 minutes flat.
I have no idea what the proper name for these things are, but there’s a big clock on a pole on the street, too. It looks like the ones you see in a movie, or on a train layout or one of those ceramic villages. And it works.
It’s obviously not the bustling commercial district it once was, with about half the storefronts closed up, but it has charm and character. Who’s going to get nostalgic at the sight of a strip mall in Mehlville or Oakville?
Closer to her apartment, it’s a residential district. On the way there, you can see $200,000 homes and you can see a handful of $500,000+ homes. It’s near a big city park. The homes are old, so the trees are mature. One of the streets is even split to allow more trees to grow in the middle. It’s a gorgeous sight in the fall.
I’m happy for her. She has a nice apartment. She’s free from a very overbearing roommate. Her utility bills are about to take a dive. She has three grocery stores within two miles. And the neighborhood looks like a postcard.
I wish I’d known about the place when I moved back to St. Louis six years ago.