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In 1972, an idealistic young man graduated from Duke University and returned to St. Louis.

There Joe Edwards became both a successful entrepreneur and “a powerful force for civic good,” writes Marjorie Kehe in the Christian Science Monitor.  …

“Casting about for a career, he decided to bank on his love of music and opened Blueberry Hill, a small restaurant and bar that featured live performances. For his venture he chose a storefront on Delmar Boulevard, a retail area that locals call The Loop (named for the trolley that once used to turn around there).

“Back in the 1920s and ’30s The Loop was an elegant shopping street, and up through the ’50s it remained a major draw for young St. Louisans …

“But by the early 1970s the street had become a ghost town. About half The Loop’s storefronts were vacant or boarded up, and crime was rampant. Edwards remembers sweeping up debris and broken glass in front of Blueberry Hill each morning and feeling despair.

” ‘Within a week of opening Blueberry Hill I realized that I wouldn’t make it if the neighborhood didn’t make it,’ he says.

“And so began his campaign of gentle persuasion. ‘I talked to other residents, to city hall, to the police,’ Edwards says. He reminded them of what many seemed to have forgotten – that The Loop was a valuable asset, graced with appealing architecture and a rich history. He formed The Loop Special Business District and served on committees that worked on issues from lighting to sanitation to flower planters to security.

“But Edwards’s best move was to become a success. ‘The business establishment has been willing to listen to him because he’s been so successful,’ says Bill McClellan, a columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. ‘He’s an unusual combination – a hippie-visionary-business type.’ ”

Read more about how one person made a big difference in a city he loved.

Photograph: Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor
Joe Edwards sits in the display window of his restaurant Blueberry Hill on Delmar Boulevard in St. Louis.

 

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