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Uber Delivers Comments, Signatures to Taxi Commission's Door

Categories: Bidness, Tech

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Emily McCarter
Uber general manager Sagar Shah stands with Uber drivers outside of the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission to deliver signed petitions and comments from the public.

For an argument about technology, the latest public relations offensive in the battle between ridesharing app Uber and the Metropolitan Taxi Commission, or MTC, was ridiculously old school.

At 1:30 p.m. yesterday, Uber General Manager Sagar Shah, along with six Uber drivers, rang the doorbell of the MTC's beige brick headquarters near downtown St. Louis to drop off hundreds of comments and a petition with 7,000 signatures, urging regulators to allow the entry of UberX into the St. Louis market.

They called them "UberLETTERS." But instead of being delivered the tech-savvy way -- by smartphone or text message, perhaps -- they were on actual paper printouts.

Blame the taxi commission for that.

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Strange Folk Festival Coming to Union Station in September

Categories: Arts, Bidness

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Autumn Wiggins
Photo by Jennifer Silverberg
Strange Folk Festival is coming to St. Louis.

That's the word from Autumn Wiggins, who released a flyer via email this afternoon, indicating the arts-and-crafts festival she founded will be held September 26 and 27 at Union Station. Wiggins indicated she'll be making a statement tomorrow.

See also: Strange Folk Festival Founder Autumn Wiggins Battles O'Fallon Over Event She Created

Wiggins founded the festival ten years ago in her hometown of O'Fallon, Illinois, and grew it into what's arguably the premiere crafting festival in the entire region. But when Wiggins attempted to tell O'Fallon earlier this year that she was pulling the plug after nine years, things got messy -- the city attempted to claim that it owned the event, and that Wiggins was merely a vendor. The police even got involved after O'Fallon reported a laptop stolen.

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St. Louis Swap Meet Gets City Green Light -- For Now

Categories: Bidness, Community

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Photo by Abby Gillardi
A scene from the St. Louis Swap Meet last weekend.

The city's Board of Adjustment has upheld the occupancy permit for the five-week-old St. Louis Swap Meet -- a flea market held every Sunday off Cherokee Street's Antique Row.

As we chronicled last week, some veteran Antique Row merchants had feared the weekly event would harm their shops. They appealed the permit, urging the city to make sure the vendors obtained business licenses and paid sales tax.

The board's decision essentially allows the Swap Meet to carry on as before, meaning that founder Martin Casas will not be responsible for making sure his vendors follow the rules. Flea markets in Belleville, Illinois; St. Peters and the city's Tower Grove neighborhood operate with similar freedom; it's up to each participant to comply with applicable laws, not the organizers.

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Uber Says Impasse with Taxi Commission Could Scuttle St. Louis Launch

Categories: Bidness, Tech

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Photo courtesy of Flickr/Scott L
Taxi drivers in Chicago protest Uber.
Uber says it could be ready to start taking passengers in St. Louis via its ride-sharing app, UberX, in a matter of days -- the only thing it's waiting on is regulatory approval.

But you might want to hold off on downloading the app just yet. The company's general manager for St. Louis, Sagar Shah, says that he believes Uber has reached an impasse with regulators at the Metropolitan Taxi Commission.

"We were having what seemed like productive conversations," he says. "But what they seem to be insisting on now is misaligned from the progress we thought we were making."

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Launching a "Micro-Business" in St. Louis Could Get Way Easier Thanks to Reform Bills

Categories: Bidness

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Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Dave Herholz
A package of three bills being introduced at City Hall would significantly overhaul its business regulations.
Valencia Miller tattoos bodies. She doesn't canvass neighborhoods.

Yet in October 2013, when Miller applied at St. Louis City Hall for a conditional use permit to open a tattoo studio in Benton Park West, the artist had to obtain a map of her block. She had to identify all neighbors within 500 feet of her front door. She had to type their names into a spreadsheet. And mail them postcards. And collect their signatures. And sit through hearings.

"There was no guidance," she told Daily RFT. "They got to know me at City Hall."

See also: Row on Cherokee Row: Merchants Take on the St. Louis Swap Meet

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Row on Cherokee's Antique Row: Merchants Take on St. Louis Swap Meet

Categories: Bidness, Community

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Photo by Nicholas Phillips
Resale merch at the St. Louis Swap Meet
From the outside, the first St. Louis Swap Meet looked like a score. Some 5,000 souls swarmed the placid Marine Villa neighborhood on Sunday, May 17. Trekking to the eastern end of Cherokee Street, they found 91 vendors who had set up booths in the old Lemp Brewery's gravel parking. There they milled among new and used goods, and even some produce.

The metro area's newest flea market couldn't contain the bustle. Shoppers spooled onto adjacent Antique Row, where more than a dozen red-brick shops sell vintage merchandise in the shade of zelkova and oak trees. Most dealers are closed on Sundays, but some opened their doors that afternoon and saw a bump in traffic. The Mud House, a cafe/restaurant five blocks west, was open too. Its line grew out to the sidewalk. Co-owner Jeremy Miller later said it as one of the highest-grossing Sundays in his cafe's six-year history.

"The St. Louis Swap Meet was a great success," Miller's wife and co-owner, Casey, wrote a few days later on the Cherokee Antique Row Facebook page. But then she clarified: "Please know that the majority of the businesses on the street are not opposing the market."

"Haters gonna hate," she continued. "The rest of us will continue to do business in harmony with everybody else."

"My thoughts exactly," Jovanka Hammond, co-owner of Hammond's Antiques & Books, replied on Miller's post. She lamented unnamed "mischief-makers" with a "negative" agenda who "misinformed" people.

"We all have a lot to lose if we don't wake up," Hammond wrote. "In a more perfect world, my choice would be to keep this private rather than public, but the line has to be drawn somewhere."

Haters? Mischief makers? Over a flea market?

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IKEA's St. Louis Store Is Taking Shape (PHOTOS)

Categories: Bidness

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Photo by Micah Usher
St. Louis has a bad case of IKEA fever.

The 380,000-square-foot store at the intersection of Forest Park and Vandeventer has been under construction for ten months -- and every day, anticipation only grows stronger. Locally, the store has gotten a bigger buildup than most presidential campaigns. Here come the letters for the sign! Oh wait, those weren't the letters for the sign. Now they're here. Each development gets the sort of breathless play-by-play typically reserved for such matters of import as Jennifer Aniston's baby bump (still unconfirmed) or Princess Kate's delivery (pending, or so says US Weekly).

This can't just be about our desire for a nice Grundtal/Norrviken sink or a Dagstorp faux-leather sofa. Our need for IKEA is about more than mere furniture.

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Star Clipper Blasts Off in Downtown St. Louis

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Photo by Jeremy Essig
Star Clipper opened for business Saturday under new ownership, but with many of its Delmar Loop employees.
By Jeremy Essig

It's fitting that the story that rebooted some of history's most famous superheroes also began a new era for St. Louis' bestl-known comic-book shop.

Star Clipper Comics relaunched from its new downtown location under cloudy skies Saturday morning. In a moment of beautiful synchronicity, Flashpoint, a 2011 comic-book series that began anew the histories of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, among others, was the first item rung through new store's till.

See also: Star Clipper Returns: Comic Book Shop to Resurrect with New Owners, Location

Much as Flashpoint made some dramatic alterations to comic history even while maintaining some continuity, the new Star Clipper location was also a distinct mix of old and new. The smell of fresh paint and new fixtures combined with recognizable signage and some familiar faces from the store's old Delmar location to begin the store's next chapter.

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Could Chrona Be the Key to Deeper Sleep? These Wash. U. Grads Say Yes

Categories: Bidness, Tech

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Courtesy of Ultradia
Ultradia cofounders Ben Bronsther (left) and Zimin Hang think they've cracked the code to deeper, more restorative sleep.
Zimin Hang and Ben Bronsther didn't set out to improve sleep. Like many entrepreneurs before them, the young Washington University grads merely thought they could measure it better.

They wanted to invent a device that would allow sleep research to be conducted in the patient's own bedroom. Instead of intrusive caps that require study subjects to spend nights wired up in a lab, what about sensor sheets that could be tucked beneath their pillowcases to measure sleep patterns? Perfect the technology, and researchers would surely line up, checkbooks in hand.

"We spent so much time and money on a patent to protect the technology that would do that," Hang admits. "The technology literally doesn't exist yet -- but we have the patent."

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Star Clipper to Hold Downtown Grand Opening on April 25

Categories: Bidness, Books

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Photo by Jennifer Silverberg
The new Star Clipper will have the same fixtures and staff as the old location in the Delmar Loop.
Two months after Star Clipper closed its doors in the Delmar Loop, its new owners have set a date for its grand reopening downtown: April 25.

The soft opening may come even sooner, says Keya Matanagh, who will be managing the location for owners Fantasy Books Inc.

"We are definitely going to be open by then," Matanagh promises.

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