Yelp is all about connecting people with great local businesses, and we recognize that these businesses — led by artisans, doers and creators of all kinds — are the lifeblood of our communities. So we choose a few small biz badasses from around the world each month to spotlight and learn from.
Allow us to introduce brothers Jeff and Randy Vines, founders of STL-Style in St. Louis. From T-shirts and hats to posters and stickers, STL-Style designs unique apparel that celebrates The Gateway City with local pride.
How did you get your start?
We grew up in the suburbs, and from an early age, we always had a profound love affair with the city of St. Louis. We were enamored with the grit, soul and the urbanity, so we were always very prideful of the city. When we were in high school we had a rare opportunity to produce a cable show that allowed us to brush shoulders and visit the city on a regular basis. After graduating college, we came back to St. Louis, moved to the city and got very involved with different civic affairs. There weren’t any cool T-shirts to represent the city, so we started making some of our own at our friend’s kitchen table in Dogtown. People started asking about them, so we started making more and more until it created its own demand.
When did you finally feel like you “made it”?
In 2008, the New York Times sent a reporter to spend the day with us. They did a big feature on us and what we’re doing to revamp St. Louis’ image via T-shirts. It ran in the national edition of the Sunday New York Times, and overnight it catapulted the STL-Style brand into something way bigger than we ever imagined. That was the tipping point of our company. Before that, it was more of a moonlighting hobby.
What makes you most excited about having STL-Style in St. Louis?
St. Louis has this really rich cultural urban fabric that comes with age and former prominence. It was one of the greatest cities in the country at the turn of the 20th century. This legacy resonates in the amazing architecture, great parks, really distinctive neighborhoods and a soul you can’t find everywhere. We tap into that and create stylish, fun apparel that everyone can get along with. Our entire ethos is to walk the walk. Cherokee Street (where STL-Style is located) really embodies everything that inspires us about this city. It’s overlooked and gritty, but there is so much collaboration. Cherokee Street is a distilled version of the greater urban culture in St. Louis.
Why was creating STL-Style important to you?
We were one of the earliest to have a city-themed clothing company in an underappreciated city. You can get a shirt for any city that looks cool, but more goes into it when you’re promoting a city that needs to be promoted to itself. There’s a lot more authenticity and soul behind cities that need the promotion. STL isn’t even on the list of “under the radar cool places” to visit, but STL has everything you need in a cool city. We’ve always been self conscious, but despite our growth, the scrappiness of the city is something that should never be lost.
STL-Style also took part in a Yelp’s Passport to Cherokee Street event in 2012 for the St. Louis community, in which Yelpers enjoyed local eats and jammed to live music. Read more about that here.