Whether its little feet scampering between Citygarden fountains, neat slacks descending on Metro steps or a bike gliding toward the Arch, Downtown St. Louis is often bustling with movement. But what happens when you slow down?
Washington Avenue Post is a family-owned coffee shop and market in Downtown St. Louis where residents love to linger in the sun with a comforting drink. One of four businesses on Washington Avenue when Bob Ray first opened the shop, Washington Avenue Post is now a staple in the Downtown community. “I think that coffee shops by nature are gathering points for neighborhoods, and we’ve been that for 14 years,” Ray explains. After operating as a coffee shop and shipping outlet for six years, Washington Avenue Post expanded to accommodate the neighborhood need for a market and store.
With a variety of affordably-priced fresh, frozen and prepared goods and sundry items, neighbors are just as likely to stop for a latte as they are to grab their weekly groceries. Ray states that Washington Avenue Post keeps prices low while sourcing their goods and produce from the same distributors that supply high-end grocery stores.
Antwain Jackson, a beaming and energetic personality with a warm sense of humor, is a local pastor and regular at Washington Avenue Post. Because they are a small business, he chooses to go to Washington Avenue Post instead of a grocery store chain. “I do grab toiletries, groceries, quick food—I do go here first… they know your name, they treat you with kindness. It’s not just the store, you get to know everybody and you just want to see them too.”
The welcoming environment makes the Washington Avenue Post a locus for community and the important conversations that come with it. Ray says that he is intentional about creating a welcoming environment starting with his staff. “We pay very, very close attention to the people we hire here,” Ray explains, noting his open and welcoming staff. “Everybody is welcome here, whether you’re a billionaire or homeless… we’re not pretentious, we’re not fancy, we just are what we are.”
As a result, Jackson says, “Honestly, you feel like family. You really don’t feel like that’s an employee behind the counter—you feel like that’s your friend.”