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More than 90 St. Louis business owners rebuke KDHX leaders in joint letter, call for change

KDHX's headquarters in Midtown.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
KDHX, an independent and listener-supported radio station last September in Midtown. More than 90 St. Louis business owners are calling for the station to return dismissed former DJs to their positions and give volunteers more of a say in how the station runs.

Updated at 1:50 p.m. Jan. 11 to include more signers, a comment from a business owner and a KDHX statement

More than 90 St. Louis business owners have given former KDHX DJs and other volunteers a strong show of support in their battle against the station.

In a letter shared Wednesday, business owners called for a change within KDHX, a station that has been troubled by tension between management and volunteers for months.

The business owners said that the station should bring back the DJs management dismissed last fall.

The letter was written by Parker's Table at Oakland & Yale owner Jon Parker and The Royale Food & Spirits owner Steven Smith. Other signers included the owners of Crown Candy, Union Loafers, Left Bank Books, STL Style, Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., The Gramophone and Off Broadway.

They said that the series of changes at the station made possible by changes to the bylaws by the board of directors “fails to give the community a sense of shared direction, undermines confidence in KDHX leadership’s ability to facilitate DJ independence and democratic ideals, and threatens the special quality of independent life” that makes the region loyal to the station.

“We can sympathize that it’s a tough job managing the many talents of KDHX, but the loss of nearly half of the on-air DJs represents a failure by the leadership,” Parker and Smith wrote.

Smith has held various roles at KDHX, interning at the station in the 1990s, volunteering as an engineer and serving in its development department and as a board member in the late 2000s and early 2010s. He said he began to have concerns about the station in 2019 when the station dismissed several paid staff members.

“You're dealing with a lot of different types of people, and it's a difficult thing,” Smith said in an interview. “Sometimes hard decisions need to be made, but losing half of your staff over it, when it's a business that is a nonprofit that is a community-driven radio station, it's not a private business, something's wrong and feels like the station is taken from the community.”

In a statement, KDHX Executive Director Kelly Wells said the station is committed to its listeners and has added two dozen DJs.

“Our commitment to bringing the power of music to listeners in St. Louis has never been stronger. In our strategic plan, the community asked us to take a critical look at how we do business. We have made changes to more accurately reflect our community,” Wells wrote. “It’s unfortunate that this group continues to try to tear down KDHX. In fact, we have 24 new DJs that are bringing their unique voices to the airwaves.”

Smith said the letter to KDHX started to gain traction last month when business owners began signing the statement. More than 50 people signed the letter Wednesday, and about 40 added their names Thursday. Smith said the business owners aim to persuade KDHX management to listen to the community.

Station leaders have faced a firestorm of objections for months, after dismissing more than a dozen DJs and volunteers, including those who signed a letter of no confidence in KDHX Executive Director Kelly Wells.

A group of former KDHX DJs and other station critics are suing the station, seeking to make station leaders change the makeup of its board of directors, removing two board members and adding three new ones.

The business owners who signed the letter include:

Steven Smith, The Royale Food & Spirits
Jon Parker, Parker's Table at Oakland & Yale
Jeff and Randy Vines, STL-Style
David Kirkland, Turn Restaurant & David Kirkland Catering
Suzie Hanneke Westerbeck, Westwood Catering, Deli & Grocery
Jake Hafner, Civil Life Brewing Co.
Robyn Niesmann, The Mud House
Kitt Villasis-Corbin, La Patisserie by Kitt Villasis-Corbin
Eric Woods, The Firecracker Press
Joe Jackson, Jackson Pianos
Stan Chisholm, Screwed Arts Collective
Peter Cohen, Stringbean Coffee
Rob Connoley, Bulrush
Josh Stevens, Reedy Press
Eliza Coreill and Kenny Snarzyk, The Crow's Nest & Eat Crow
David Wolfe, Urban Chestnut Brewing Co.
Doug Morgan, Saturn Lounge
Mike Tiefenbrun, Home Grown Trees
Brad Sarno, Sarno Music Solutions & Blue Jade Audio Mastering
John Parker, O'Connell's Pub & Jack's Joint
Matt Stuttler, The Sinkhole
Dave Drebes, Missouri Scout
Joshua Grigaitis, Pop’s Blue Moon
Tim Drescher, Kuva Coffee Co.
Jessica Douglass, Flowers & Weeds
Mo Costello, MoKaBe's Coffeehouse
Mark Pannebecker, Spine Indie Bookstore & Cafe
Andrew Ploof, Music Folk
Brian Lock, Universal Financial Group
Brian Hayes, D&H Truck & Trailer Repair
Denny Hammerstone, Hammerstone's
Stuart Keating, Earthbound Beer
Dan Trueman, Truemans Place
Chris Meyer, Kitchen Kulture/Songbird
Jesse Irwin, Carondelet Mechanical
Jack Ellman, Central Garage
Jeremy Miller, Dead Wax Records
William Pauley, Confluence Kombucha
Scott Swanston, The Gramophone
Ted Wilson, Union Loafers
Lisa Govro, Big Heart Tea Co.
Andy Foerstel and Melissa Pfeiffer, Intoxicology
Robert Frank, Ferdworks
Rich Mueller, R L Mueller Popcorn & Supply
Andy Karandzieff, Crown Candy Kitchen
Sarah Miller, Switchgrass Spirits
Connie Gress, Every Body Massage
Janet Sanders and John Leible, Perpetua Iron
Steve Pohlman, Off Broadway
Vince Valenza, Blues City Deli
Sarah Shelton, Girl Louie
Kate Estwing, City House Country Mouse
Kris Kleindienst, Left Bank Books
Sheila Shahpari, Paritta Group
Walter Volz, Karl Volz & Sons Inc. (steel fabricators)
Mike Urness, Great Planes Trading Co. (Antique Tool Specialist)
Thomas Pullen, Mojo’s Music
Mike Killian, Killian Designs/The Shoelace Factory
Linsey Estes, Allow Me Cleaning & Services
Jamie Choler and Sara Hale, Fair Shares
Rick Funcik, The Joinery Custom Woodworking
Chad Taylor, The Venice Cafe
Lori Fowler, Cielo
Lisa Frick, Lisa Frick Artwork
Ann Rabbitt, Thorn Studio
Barbara Gremaud, Sacred Garden Midwifery & Lactation
Jason McEntire, Sawhorse Recording Studios
Todd Brutcher, Southside Alchemy
Mary Engelbreit, Mary Engelbreit Studio
Jeff Lopinot, Verve Hair Salon
Kay Rye, Sole Survivor Leather
Steve and Shelly Dachroeden, The Silver Ballroom & The Waiting Room
Paul Kafalenos, Silver Wing Studio
Brian Andrew Marek, Rubberstamp Records
Kevin Belford, Devil At The Confluence
Zach Miller and Mike Zanger, Taqueria Z
Joan Lipkin, That Uppity Theatre Company
Carrie Harris, The Crack Fox
Keith A. Buchholz, Fluxus St. Louis
Lynn Terry, Zoomies Cafe
Anna Grant, Cowpunkjewels
Alex Cupp, The Stellar Hog
Elicia Eskew and Gavin Haslett, Benton Park Cafe
Julie Sommer, Sommer Property investments
Susan Barrett, Barrett Barrera Projects & projects+gallery
John Schaefering, Power Play Hockey
Bill Streeter, Hydraulic Pictures
Cody Hayo, Pretty City Gardens and Landscapes
Kate Ewing, Brick City Yoga
Tom Lane, Metro Home Care Services
Jason Mohler, Mohler Material Handling Inc.
Alex Carlson, Red Guitar Bread

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.