Christmastime in The Lou

From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day downtown St. Louis is at its most magical, decked out for the holidays in festive garlands and raiments of shining colors – silver and gold to be sure – along with the glowing orbs in Citygarden. Candles light the windows of the Old Courthouse, and the tallest of Christmas trees (the Salvation Army’s), lights Kiener Plaza.

Schnucks Culinaria at 9th and Olive Streets ( was the site of a noontime flash mob Friday as singers and dancers from the St. Louis Women’s Chorale ( filled the aisles with shopping carts and raised their voices in a lovely rendition of “The Carol of the Bells” to the accompaniment of violin, viola and cello and the surprise of busy shoppers and grocery clerks.

Friday’s flash mob at Culinaria and Saturday’s at Schnucks Market in Des Peres celebrated The St. Louis Women’s Chorale’s newly formed collaboration with Maryville University in West County where they are now resident. Founded in 1995 by Dr. Richard and Mary Ann Shaw the Chorale is presently under the artistic direction of mezzo-soprano, Kathy Lawton Brown.

The management at Schnucks corporate offices were enthusiastic about the carolers coming to add to the already considerable sparkle of the highly innovative urban, hybrid grocery, cafe and wine bar which they call Culinaria.

They were equally open to the concept at their state of the art market in Des Peres which was packed Saturday morning when the flash mob was re-enacted – Rosewood Ensemble, bells and all.

The Schnuck family ( has been known for their grocery enterprise since Anna Schnuck opened their first retail store in north St. Louis in 1939, two years after her husband, Edwin began a successful wholesale meat business nearby. Before long all three of their children – their older son, Edward,  their daughter, Annette and her husband, Raymond Hanhardt, and their younger son, Donald with his wife, Doris opened stores of their own.

Today the Schnucks corporation operates five hundred stores in seven states! And it’s still very much a family business. One of Culinaria’s most charming features is a series of murals above the deli and meat departments that illustrate the evolution of farmers’ markets to grocery stores in St. Louis. The one on the left depicts a neighborhood confectionary (Anna’s perhaps?) and St. Louis’ historic Union Market (today the Drury Hotel Convention Center).

After sipping the most incredible hot cocoa in The Lou at The Cafe Cioccolato ( 816 Olive Street following the flash mob Friday with its organizers – my husband, Tom Kavanaugh and Paula and John Powel Walsh – I walked over to the AIA Bookstore to thank Director, Michelle Swatek, for inviting me to speak at the architects’ December lunch meeting about Christmas in Colonial St. Louis, the subject of my next blog. It is always a pleasure to meet with these wonderful designers, the literal shapers of this metropolis.

The American Institute of Architects Bookstore ( in the Lammert Building at 911 Washington Avenue is a marvelous place to shop not only during the winter holidays but year round. They carry a beautiful line of gifts in addition to books, greeting cards, calendars, and architectural miniatures. Whether you’re looking for Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, silk ties or architectural games, Debra Boussum, who presides over the AIA Bookstore will lead you to it.

I am enormously grateful to Michelle Swatek for her generous support of my walking tours, research and initiatives with respect to building-and-site-oriented St. Louis history. The DVD which I created two summers ago with my son, Tom Kavanaugh, Jr., A Walking Tour of Market Street, The Oldest Street in St. Louis, a downtown guide covering nearly a thousand years of St. Louis history, can be purchased in the AIA Bookstore along with other unique souvenirs of the Gateway City.

Between now and December 24th you might want to consider a trip downtown for the gifts you’ve not yet found for that special someone. From Macy’s to Macro Sun, the London Tea Room to Eve’s Apple, the AIA Bookstore to the Cafe Cioccolato, Left Bank Books to Ceci’s – it’s a bit like shopping the world. The rotunda of the Old Courthouse is lovely, festooned for the holidays and their gift shop contains excellent books on area history. For that very special child in your life (and what child isn’t?) be sure to check out the gift shop in the Eugene Field House & St. Louis Toy Museum at 634 South Broadway for charming and intriguing vintage toys. Then bundle up and take a leisurely stroll through Citygarden. Wait until dark so that you see the luminaries at their brightest, changing colors, delighting the eye, and I guarantee that you’ll hear carols playing in your imagination all the way home. Silver bells and all.

Photo Credits: Three Citygarden Shots -Tom Kavanaugh, Sr., Culinaria – Tom Kavanaugh, Sr., Schnucks Market, Des Peres – Tom Kavanaugh, Sr., The AIA Bookstore, St. Louis & Friday’s “Carol of the Bells” Flash Mob – Maureen O’Connor Kavanaugh, the author of this blog.

About stltourguide

I am a walking tour and narrated coach tour guide in St. Louis, Missouri specializing in the history of the area.
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