Going forward, we will be presenting some of the highlights from Gary’s Newsletter series to our followers. Those who have already subscribed to this newsletter receive it every Thursday. If you wish to receive his newsletter, which will contain thoughts on just about every subject imaginable, click the “Get Gary’s Newsletter” link on the homepage of our blog. This newsletter was originally sent out in July 2016…
Let’s pretend for a minute that Lukas Wine & Spirits Superstore is not locally owned. This is important because I don’t want my motive for writing this newsletter to be misinterpreted. Obviously, I am a capitalist. Lukas started with nine employees 18 years ago. Today we have twenty-two. 90% have eye, dental and health insurance, paid vacation and other benefits. All a result of capitalism.
There is, however, much more to life’s buying experiences than what pure capitalism can offer. You, as a St. Louis consumer, have an opportunity to feel something that a lot of towns can’t offer. We have a huge presence of locally owned businesses. Unlike Springfield, Columbia and even K.C., our restaurants and retailers are, for the most part, locally owned; not chain driven. Shopping locally owned can create a unique shopping experience. What we as consumers aren’t always aware of is a sense of community can be created with locally owned establishments. This community experience can also create memories.
You create a sense of community by shopping at a local farmer’s market. You’ll remember eating on The Hill or Broadway Oyster Bar, not Applebee’s or Red Lobster. We have very good locally owned grocery stores with Schnucks, Dierberg’s and Straub’s.
It’s amazing to me, when a chain grocery, restaurant or retail store comes in town, how many people can’t wait to tell you they are going to quit shopping locally owned.
Since 2007 there has been a produce stand on Manchester. I have been shopped there since 2007. For those of you that don’t know about this place, let’s just say it is a community experience. These poor owners sold produce under an aluminum framed structure covered with plastic. They used outdated registers powered by extension cords. I love talking to local owners. These people never claimed to be the cheapest in town. They were simply offering a fair product for a fair price. They kept their nose to the grindstone and worked hard every day.
Finally, three months ago, they moved to a brick and mortar building next to Suntrup BMW. The sign out front says ‘The Fruit Stand.’ I talked to these hard working owners the other day and asked them how was business. Knowing I had shopped there for years, the owner looked at me. Through tired, but happy eyes he smiled and said “we’re already looking for another location.” At that moment, past memories flooded over me. These people battling 25 mile an hour winds, torrential rains, blistering heat and freezing cold. In 2007 they had zero employees. Today they have eight. This is pure capitalism at its best.
Folks, this is what community is all about. The support we show locally owned businesses creates local prosperity. More important, to you the consumer, it creates experiences and memories. All of your memories as a child, teenager or an adult of an eating or shopping experience is affected by “locally owned.” You might remember shopping at Grandpa Pigeon’s. You will never remember shopping at Wal-Mart.
So at The Fruit Stand, who cares if you paid 5 cents more for a pound of bananas. Shopping at a locally owned establishment versus a national chain is not the same. This is St. Louis. Home of locally owned, community and memories.

 “If we wait on you, we don’t have to work.”



 Gary Bilder: Owner, Lukas Wine & Spirits