#ARTIFACTUAL
Downtown First

July 18, 2017

Written by Miles Ramsay | Photos by Alysa Ramsay

CHARACTER TRAIT: ARTifactual

DEFINITION: Something made by human hands that has some archaeological or historical significance

Like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes, St. Joseph’s historic downtown is on the rise. Downtown First (formerly known as First Saturdays) is a celebration of the district’s reemergence, complete with themes and samples from the area’s businesses.

On a warm Saturday afternoon, a stout, shaggy haired figure sits along the sidewalk at the corner of Eighth and Felix in downtown St. Joseph, carefully sketching an intricate design on a clean, white sheet of paper.

It’s another First Saturday in the downtown district. An open invitation to celebrate the passion and precision that downtown’s unique small businesses offer – colorful macarons from Brioche French Bakery and Café, diligently selected cheese from Felix Street Gourmet, craft brews from The Tiger’s Den Bookstore and Bar, handmade scarves from Mod Podge Boutique, a creative cocktail from Club Geek, home décor from Nesting Goods, or vintage clothing and jewelry from The Lucky Tiger.

Downtown has become a blank canvas of landmark buildings and historic streets for young artists and entrepreneurs to create with, build upon, and breathe new life into.

Former president of Downtown First, Brian Myers, says the monthly event is a chance to rediscover downtown and find a hidden gem.

“I hear it all the time now, ‘Wow! I didn’t know all this was down here.’ If you can get them downtown on a First Saturday, they will come back…Our main goal is to intertwine art and live music with commerce.”

Café Pony Espresso Barista, Arlo Elliott echoes those sentiments and facetiously refers to his profession as…

“…the artistry of coffee mixed with crass capitalism.”

Downtown First events incorporate fun themes and events like wine walks, sidewalk sales, cultural heritage festivals, Holidays at the Square, and whatever else the Downtown First board conjures up. Watch out in March for a leprechaun that’ll throw Lucky Charms cereal at you. On the surface, it appears to be all fun and merriment, but go a level deeper and you’ll uncover a sense of community, togetherness, and new possibilities that seem to waft through the air and intoxicate patrons.

For those that have grown up in this community and have only thought of downtown as a deteriorating ghost town with fading memories of yesteryear, events like First Saturdays are kind of surreal. To see these buildings filled with fresh perspectives and ideas, not to mention ACTUAL people is like watching the proverbial phoenix rise from the ashes.

Let the renaissance of downtown and Downtown First continue forevermore! Huzzah!

#HUMBLE

If you ask him about his career playing and coaching tennis, he’ll tell you he just hopes that people try the sport.

#SUCCESS

What does it take to turn a business idea into a thriving reality? In St. Joseph, the formula for success is well-defined: The spark or “drive” to make it happen; the willingness to make a plan; and the expert-level guidance from the Center for Entrepreneurship, a unique initiative of Missouri Western State University (MWSU).

#PROGRESSING

Soon guests and residents could enjoy even more, both inside and outside, as a 1/2 cent sales tax increase hits the ballot, with revenues dedicated to renovation and enhancements of the city’s parks system. If approved, the tax increase would generate an additional $5 to 6 million dollars per year and could be shared across dozens of projects.

#CONNECTED

From the wrought iron balcony of the 1859 Isaac Miller House, hundreds of stories have unfolded – and they continue to emerge, highlighting unique Southern family legacy and innovative founders’ history.

#EXPRESSIVE

The drive throughout downtown has become more colorful in the last five years, thanks to the creation of larger than life murals that convey the unique spirit of St. Joseph.