Laclede's Landing association lures more than merchants

News-DemocratMay 19, 2014 

— A new leaders and business community group is guiding the businesses that comprise Laclede's Landing.

St. Louis-native Jill Beaverson has been named the executive director of the Landing Neighborhood Association to promote and attract business within the small urban historic business district located on the St. Louis riverfront. Formerly known as the Laclede's Landing Merchants Association, the new name emphasizes more inclusion for the entire neighborhood through the business district. Beaverson said the organization is inviting participation from landlords and other businesses.

"That is so it is inclusive of all businesses here, not just restaurants, bars and shops," Beaverson said.

Beaverson brings years of experience working in tourism, marketing and public relations from Chicago to the Napa Valley in California. She said part of her job is to get more people on board with the marketing opportunities that the association can offer.

"My theory in tourism, which is my theory with the Landing, is if it helps one business, it helps everybody," she said. "If we have a festival, people are going to want to come down and see the blues festival. They are going to want to listen to the music, they may want to get a room in a hotel, they're going to want to go out to eat, they're going to want to shop. So one of the things we are going to do is really bump up the amount of events we do to draw in more tourism."

Ryan Loeffler is the president of the association and has served since he was elected under the former association in 2010. The Belleville native is a partner and co-owner of the Big Daddy's restaurant and bar on the Landing as well as other locations in Soulard, Belleville and Edwardsville. He said this move is helping transform the restaurant association into a neighborhood association that would be more beneficial for everybody.

"One of the things we lacked is community involvement and part of that is on the membership development side, which was originally restaurants and bars," Loeffler said. "I proposed that we expand that to not just first-level businesses, but go up to the second- and third-level members be a part of the community and give them a voice down here."

One of those businesses on the Landing that does not serve food and beverages has Belleville roots. Landshire Inc., a distributor of packaged sandwiches, moved its headquarters from Belleville to the Raeder Place Building at 727 N. First St. in St. Louis in April 2010. Owner Joseph Trover's father bought the business in 1966 and had operated Landshire from 9200 W. Main St. in Belleville before making the move four years ago, soon after Trover's father's death.

"With our office here on the Landing, it benefits us as well when more restaurants open and they are doing well and bring more traffic," Trover said. "The more we have here, the happier we are in general."

The transformation has already begun as a street renovation project has been underway to level the old cobblestone streets within the Landing into a smoother surface. Beaverson said the project has been expensive as workers have had to dig and unearth layers of rock and sand. She said it is anticipated to be completed by the end of the month and provide more stable passage for drivers and pedestrians.

"I think the leveling of the streets is definitely going to help because the streets have been a little bit of a deterrent for people and not only are we making the streets smoother and easier to drive on, but the way we are reconstructing them is going to help our drainage for all of the Landing, so that is also a plus," she said.

Loeffler said the street work has restricted traffic through the Landing's businesses, but said the renovation will be well worth it and just the first step in enhancing the overall experience.

"This where St. Louis was founded," he said. "We plan on capturing a lot of historical value and keeping the customers coming back."

Beaverson said the association needs to promote the region's character and build around it by making the Landing a renowned tourist and shopping destination.

"I think the Landing should be as famous or as exciting as North Beach or as The Haight in San Francisco or Beale Street in Memphis or the French Quarter in New Orleans," she said. "I think that we have that here."

"We're unique in that we have the beautiful old historic buildings and the cobblestone streets. This is where Pierre Laclede started a trading post. A lot of people aren't aware of that."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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