Brody took creative path to architecture

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Former Cardinal centerfielder Jim Edmonds and his business partner Mark Winfield knew exactly who to turn to when they decided to create a new restaurant/nightclub. They brought in Mark’s cousin, Clay Winfield, who owns American Design Studio and Ellinger Winfield Construction and in one fell swoop had everything they needed. Gail Brody, American Design Studio’s architect, had a lot of fun with the project.

“The three story building at the corner of Locust and 19th was originally used by the Weber Company to sell farm implements before they sold cars,” Brody said. “The historic building was great structurally but a mess inside.”

Brody worked with historic preservationist Karen Baxter and skillfully wove the spaces together to accommodate the needs of the staff and patrons and meet the vision of the owners. The completed F15teen has a restaurant, bar and nightclub on the first floor, banquet facilities and a private bottle club on the second floor and offices on the third floor. Interior designer Alan Brainerd completed the design with his selection of furniture and finishes.

“We had so many grand openings,” Brody said. “The food is delicious, the chef is wonderful. I love being an architect.”

The unusual path Brody followed to become an architect went through forestry. Actually her journey began with sewing. She loved working in clothing and textile when she was in high school in Highland Park, Illinois.

“Making clothes was everything for me,” Brody said.

Unfortunately, those same classes were not as much fun in college so Brody switched her major to forestry. Why forestry?

“I was trying to save the world,” Brody said.

One of the courses Brody was required to take was a drafting course to be able to do site surveying. The class really “hit home” for her. It was more than just studying. It was doing something with her hands which would actually be creative.

“It gave me the same creative outlet sewing had done,” Brody said.

She went on to graduate from Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale with a bachelor’s degree in forestry and an associate’s degree in architecture. She moved to Texas to work and to continue her education and received her bachelor’s of architecture degree from Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

After her graduation, Brody moved to Seattle because she had heard it was a nice place to live. Her first job was with a general contractor as the assistant project manager for a brand new wastewater treatment plant. She worked on the job site for two years and when the projected was completed went to work at an architectural firm.

A few years later she contacted SIU to look into teaching at her old alma mater. She accepted a full-time teaching position and moved back to the area. Her old college roommate, Peggy Nehmen lives in St. Louis with her husband Gary Kodner. Brody would visit them often and on those visits got to know Gary’s brother Rick.

The two started dating and Brody realized it was going to be serious and moved to St. Louis and joined an architectural firm. In 2000, she started her own company, Designs in Architecture, primarily serving residential customers. Currently, she teaches professional practice and building systems at St. Louis Community College at Meramec along with her job at American Design Studio. She enjoys a variety of work experiences including “significant” projects at the company’s offices in Naples, Fla.

“The smallest house I worked on in Naples is 5,000 square feet and cost three million dollars,” Brody said. “Some of that has to do with the location. By comparison, I also worked on a 7,000 square foot house in Columbia, Mo., which cost a million-and-a-half dollars.”

Part of Brody’s skill is her knowledge of budgets and being able to work within them. Sometimes that involves guiding the client with the realities of their choices and expectations. She is equally at home with residential and commercial customers thanks to her diverse experience.

“I listen carefully to residential clients and then give them more than one option,” Brody said. “That way they can decide what works best for them. Developers, on the other hand, tend to want absolute solutions and I provide those as well.”

Brody and her husband Rick are the parents of twin sons Jordan and Paul Kodner who are in sixth grade at Solomon Schechter Day School. There are several pets at home including: three cats, two toads, one gecko and two bearded dragons. The family belongs to Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel where Brody is part of the building and grounds beautification committee.

The entire family loves to take day trips and recently went to Sikeston where they enjoyed eating at Lambert’s Cafe — The Only Home of Throwed Rolls. They also have traveled to Memphis since they love to watch minor league baseball games.

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