Clayton Chamber honors Faith Berger with award

Clayton Chamber honors Faith Berger with award

BY VICTORIA SIEGEL, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

It all started with a little question: How can we get more people to come to our area of Clayton? The next thing she knew, Faith Berger was accepting the annual Excellence in Retail/Service Award from the Clayton Chamber of Commerce on behalf of a group of dedicated merchants who created the Clayton Triangle. In reality, however, it wasn’t that simple.

In 2004, Berger, who co-owns the Barucci Gallery on Maryland Avenue in Clayton with her mother, Shirley Schwartz, approached the City of Clayton on how she and her neighboring shop owners could bring more attention to their businesses. With a study in the works about a possible merger of Clayton with Richmond Heights and the new MetroLink stop all occurring in the southern sections of downtown Clayton, Berger wanted to make sure that her area wasn’t going to be left behind in all the excitement. “Faith was at a Chamber of Commerce event and asked how the city could help promote the area where her business is located,” Ellen Gale, executive director of Clayton’s Chamber of Commerce, said. “I pointed her to Mike Schoedel, Clayton’s city manager.”

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“It’s great to have a community businessperson who takes such pride in not only her business but in her community in which she works,” Schoedel said. “Her vision and ability to get other people to work together to create the Clayton Triangle was very inspirational. Without her vision don’t think it would have been possible.” Creating the Clayton Triangle, an area of trendy shops, boutiques, restaurants and businesses roughly bordered by Brentwood, Forsyth, and Maryland, first required Berger to organize the businesspeople in the location to create a unique identity. She had to inspire the diverse interests of business owners, property managers, the Chamber and the city to develop a collaborative effort.

Berger, a longstanding member of B’nai Amoona, started by calling a meeting with the shop owners on Maryland Avenue on how they could market themselves. They decided to broaden the scope of their marketing concept by inviting businesses on neighboring streets so they could create a full-service community. “We now had a community that included cleaners, a gourmet grocer, Maryland Walk condominiums, a bank, and many places to eat,” Berger explained. “We could offer people an easy way to get everything done without hitting the big box stores. Instead of being stressed by running errands all around town, people can easily walk around the Clayton Triangle and get a great taco salad at Tejas in between picking up their dry cleaning and grocery shopping at Straub’s.”

Berger and her group secured financing by asking all interested businesses in the affected area to contribute $1,000 a year. The new group contracted with a branding and design firm to create an identity and logo. “The firm really captured the idea that we’re a neighborhood; a neighborhood that is longstanding and yet a hip place to go,” Berger said. “We are able to emphasize the quality of the area without sounding too old and staid. This new branding gives us a vehicle to put Clayton and St. Louis on the national map. It’s like when people go to New York and visit SoHo. Here, they can come to Clayton and visit the Triangle.”

The participating businesses not only reap the benefits of the Triangle’s group marketing efforts, but each business is given the logo to use in their own advertising activities. In addition, the City of Clayton purchased banners to hang around the area and has helped with the marketing campaign. And so far, the idea is working. “We can clearly see more energy and synergy of the people who are walking around the area,” Schoedel said.

Berger believes that as a collective area they can do more things and have already been able to bring a lot of attention to the area. In fact, on Oct. 7 the Triangle will host The Concorde d’Elegance, an event where 70-85 Jaguars are nationally judged. The Triangle recently added Clayton on the Park and Finale to its group, which gives the area plenty of marketing opportunities to hotel visitors. “When people are visiting the city and in the hotel they can just walk down the block to hear jazz, visit an art gallery, get a great steak, and buy some clothes,” Berger explained. “It’s like a day away, like a vacation spot.”

Berger’s vision and efforts have not only been rewarded by being a part of a unique and exciting neighborhood, but she now joins the list of other notable businesses in Clayton that have been recognized for their contributions to the city.