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Sound Bites: Cherokee Street experiencing growth in number, diversity of businesses

First row: The owners of Earthbound Beer, Los Punk; Second row: Tacos at La Vallesana, ArtBar
(Courtesy: Sauce Magazine)

In South St. Louis, Cherokee Street is booming.

That’s according to Kristin Dennis, co-owner of the Fortune Teller Bar and a member of the Cherokee Station Business Association’s board of directors.

The foundation of the street is Mexican fare and antique shopping but just within the last few years, more than 20 new food and drink establishments have opened.

“Every few months we have new businesses opening,” Dennis told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter on Friday.

The growth of Cherokee Street is a topic of Sauce Magazine’s annual list that highlights notable dishes, drinks, faces and places.

“The nightlife, we’re seeing, is really booming,” said Ligaya Figueras, executive editor of Sauce Magazine. But she said there are also daytime places such as sandwich shops.

The Fortune Teller Bar originally opened in the 1970s. It was a place you could get your fortune told despite city laws to the contrary. At the time, the area was commercially viable just as it had been in the early 1900s when there were dry goods stores, saloons, groceries, barber shops, shoe stores, and more. Businessman Fred Wehrenberg opened his first theatre on Cherokee Street in 1906.

But by the 1980s, Cherokee Street became enveloped in a freefall and during the 1990s, the Fortune Teller Bar and other businesses west of Jefferson had closed. Antique Row, east of Jefferson remained a popular destination.

Today, “no longer is Cherokee a smattering of restaurants and stores concentrated around a couple city blocks. It’s a full business district,” Figueras said.

Dennis along with others re-opened the Fortune Teller Bar in 2012, after discovering the hand painted Fortune Teller Bar sign beneath old plywood. And, yes, fortunes are still told there on select nights.

But what is Cherokee Street like now?

Kristin Dennis, who lives and works on Cherokee Street, said it’s eclectic.

“There’s all kinds of people. You’ll find young people, a lot of people in their thirties, maybe, with some beards and some thick rimmed glasses. You’ll also find college students,” Dennis said. “We also have a lot of people who are venturing out from other parts of the city and county who maybe wouldn’t have come down before.”

Sound Bites is a monthly segment produced in partnership with Sauce Magazine

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.