By Stephen Lindsley
Midtown Alley is a stretch of Locust Street in St. Louis that is bustling with a wide range of new businesses. Known as “Automobile Row” for the first half of the 20th century, the area is noted for its architectural heritage, including several buildings designed by Preston Bradshaw, the renowned architect of the Chase Park Plaza Hotel and the Jesuit Hall at St. Louis University. The area slowly fell into decline as the auto dealerships that once lined the street closed or moved to other locations. But creative reuse of these amazing buildings has breathed new life into the area, including a heavy concentration of creative services, marketing and advertising firms, but also several art galleries, a vintage soda fountain, a fitness center, and a number of new restaurants and clubs.
Located at the corner of Locust and N. Leonard Ave, just a short block north of Olive Blvd., Plush fits the description of restaurant and nightclub, but also – with 10,000 sq. ft. of space on four floors – Plush is a versatile meeting and event space that can accommodate groups small and large. Owner Maebelle Reed has operated the original Plush location in Tucson, Ariz. for more than a decade, and began renovating the St. Louis property two years ago. “We are not trying to be traditional,” says Reed. “A lot of our decisions are artistically driven, so we know that the meeting space will appeal to a certain type of group.” Organizations that have held meetings at Plush include Baker’s Shoes, the Washington University Law School, and the Lawrence Group, which held a corporate retreat in the space.
ALL THE MENU, ALL THE TIME
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day, Plush offers its entire menu at any time, day or night. Serving an eclectic mix of breakfast items and sides, snacks such as southern fried chicken wings, falefel sliders and shrimp corndogs, along with sandwiches, wraps and desserts, there is a little something for everyone on the menu – even kid-friendly selections!
The main level is divided into an open dining area on one side and a live music venue on the other, with a compact but well-appointed stage area, full bar and plenty of seating. A large notch has been cut into the second floor over the stage, allowing further balcony seating on that level with another full bar. Just on the other side of the music bar on the second level is another bar that curves into a cozy lounge area. Also on the second floor is the game room, offering a “plush” cushioned lounge pit, ping-pong, and a rare full-sized indoor shuffleboard deck.
A LOFTY ENTERPRISE
Evidence of the former residential lofts that now comprise Plush is more plentiful on the fourth floor. This is the main meeting and event space, another 10,000 square feet that can be configured for groups of just a few to a few hundred. In the southeast corner, which affords stunning views of the downtown skyline, a free-standing white bathtub, sauna and master bath remain from the last residential tenant. This is an amenity that you won’t find in most meeting spaces. The largest meeting area features an open loftstyle kitchen with a large commercialgrade refrigerator, convection oven and microwave, all tucked behind a sweeping granite countertop. This room can accommodate 120 people in a cocktail reception setting, or seat as many as 50 for a sit-down dinner. Another adjacent area divided by a hanging metal screen doubles these numbers, if necessary. Two smaller rooms off this main room can be used as breakout or staging areas. Another bathroom features a long vanity mirror and counter, and can be used as a ladies dressing area for more formal events.
Another interior area contains a modest bar, but of the espresso kind. Picture a meeting first thing in the morning with a key client or prospect. The time comes to take a break, but instead of stale Mr. Coffee with powdered creamer in Styrofoam cups, you offer a complete assortment of custom coffee drinks made to order. The food arrangements are similarly customizable. Executive Chef David Zimmerman prepares food for most events in-house, using existing menu items or working with the planner to create a custom menu. All the food at Plush is made from scratch using no pre-mixed or processed ingredients. They bake their own pastries and breads, cure and grind their own meat and fish, and make their own sauces and relishes. The diversity of menu offerings makes it easier match the right food to the needs of the occasion.
WHERE THOSE WHO KNOW GO
The furniture and decorations throughout the building are a collection of mismatched kitsch; mid-century, post-modern, and everything in-between, but somehow it all works in the space, because it is truly like a blank dry-erase board – a loftconversion in a stately midtown building that remains as adaptable now as it was on the day the restoration was complete. Blueprints for the extensive upgrades made by Reed adorn one of the many curved walls that divide fourth floor.
Meeting planners will find full multi-media capabilities at Plush, whether the group gathers around a table to watch a short PowerPoint presentation, or masses around the stage for a more elaborate production. Plush features live local and national bands nearly every night of the week, and the in-house soundman is truly in-house – his second-floor loft is part of his contract. This means that no detail needs to be left to amateurs, which sometimes makes all the difference.
Dan Reus, founder of Openly Disruptive, has used plush to hold “The Big Disruption Series,” which he describes as “eclectic innovation conferences.” Dan says, “We like Plush because there are a variety of spaces for both presentations and workshops/ breakouts, the food is excellent, and the décor and location are very creative and inspiring. Our audiences like to feel free to think outside the box about big ideas, and the Plush vibe is very conducive to that. When you add in that audio and lighting (and projection soon, too, I heard) are already in place, you end up with an easy venue to do thought-provoking events in. If you want a hotel ballroom with all the traditional services and feel, go to one. If you want something different, Plush is the place. Plus, the staff is can-do with minimal drama.”
Another recent event at Plush was held by City Academy, a private, independent elementary school located in North St. Louis city. Development Director Ginger Imster was looking for a unique venue, and noted that the urban redevelopment aspect of the space creates a good synergy with City Academy. “We can’t say enough great things about Maebelle and her staff. They were very engaging and inviting, the food was outstanding, and we received a very favorable response from our guests, who were all seeing Plush for the first time. The event was fairly informal, and the fourth floor meeting space served our needs perfectly.”
Flexible, full-service and edgy, this is meeting space that will appeal to a certain species of entrepreneur who lives ahead of the curve. Plush is not even a year old yet, and Midtown Alley is just beginning to hit the radar of the cognoscenti in St. Louis. The construction dust is still lingering in the neighborhood as more and more young companies are drawn to the new and dynamic energy building in this long-neglected part of town. But Midtown Alley is not all about business, and neither is Plush. Far more private parties are held here than meetings. The fourth-floor is a stunning former full-floor residential loft, perfect for parties and devoid of all the valuable things that tend to be in an actual residential loft and might get broken as the evening wears on. And if your group is really large, you can have a band play live music onstage and utilize the entire facility. The potential is endless.
If you are planning a meeting, a meeting that becomes a party, or a party, Plush in Midtown Alley may be just what you’re looking for. Conveniently located just east of Grand Center and just west of Downtown, this is a space that is still a little off the beaten path, but the less-beaten path is often where the action is. MM&E
Plush St. Louis
3224 Locust Street
St. Louis, MO 63103
Contact Maebelle Reed for more info
(314) 535-2686 ext. 3