Church’s Chicken in The Loop Closes

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Churchs Chicken_Delmar

It had become an urban legend that the Church's Chicken at Delmar and Skinker in The Loop would anchor the southeast corner in perpetuity. The story went that the location was the top selling of any Church's in the city. It was said that Joe Edwards, the unofficial mayor of The Loop, and owner of Blueberry Hill, the Moonrise, Pageant, etc., had tried to acquire it, that Washington University wanted to see it developed. That it was still there was proof it would always be there. Then it wasn't.

Yesterday, I stopped by after a post on the nextSTL forum said the restaurant was being dismantled. The person loading kitchen equipment into a moving truck pointed a sign in the window that stated the location was permanently closed, thanked customers for their business and asked that they visit other locations. The city website showed no sale of the property. There were no permits listed for interior alterations, demolition, or anything else.

The latest word is that Church's bought out of their lease early. The building's owners now have time to come up with a redevelopment plan. The intersection has long been the target of redevelopment by the aforementioned Loop interests. A recent retail study speculatively showed the Church's and the opposite gas station redeveloped with mixed-use infill. While there doesn't appear to be a plan in place for the corner, there will be pressure and opportunity to do something more urban than the 1970 fast food restaurant.

{looking northwest at Delmar/Skinker from Church's Chicken}

{vision for a new Delmar/Skinker intersection}

Delmar Loop retail study
{overall vision along coming Loop Trolley line}

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  • liz

    I moved from The Loop last year and I could not be happier. Yeah…. that place was a problem, but certainly not the only one. In about four months time I got robbed at knife point trying to find a parking space while there was a huge show at the Pageant…. lots of people around but no one seemed to notice anything. My Vespa had it’s fuel line slashed while parked before it was even dark outside next to Vintage Vinyl…. oh yeah. That was special. My car got hit and run three times while parked by The Moonrise…. once I saw the DRUNKEN jerk who did it…. despite the cameras, no one would check so I could file a claim Oh, and the jerk had Washington University plates. THEY can get away with anything and THEY are as bad as the kids who cause trouble…. but they don’t go after the wealthy, do they. No. In fact, Wash U does NOTHING for their neighbors if it might cause them bad publicity. No, I do not miss it. I live in midtown, I love it, I feel safe, and SLU is a lovely neighbor.

  • Presbyterian

    It sounds like it may *not* be a given that this building gets torn down. I don’t think I’ve ever been so eager for a demolition.

  • oldschoolcrate

    i think shell is more of a shit magnet than anything. it should go too!

  • Daniel

    This is perhaps the most tangible form of gentrification in the loop yet. Church’s had basically an all black clientele, so this seems to send the message that the neighborhood doesn’t wish to cater to that demographic. Are we saying that it was a breeding ground for problems because it attracted black folks to the neighborhood? While from my white middle class perspective I agree that this move is “good” for the neighborhood because my preferences don’t include fast food, I wonder if this change isn’t also rather exclusionary.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Really? I was in Starbucks a few weeks ago, more black customers than white. I even saw some black people in the bike shop that same day. I don’t buy the racial argument. I’m glad to see Church’s go because it’s physical setting on a corner lot is detriment to a walkable community. Put a Church’s in a storefront next door? Great! I don’t like the gas station on the other corner either. And for the record, I thought it was a mistake for the one historic building on the corner to be rid of the cellphone shop, barber, etc. for an Italian bakery.

      • Daniel Layton

        I agree that if Church’s were put in a storefront next door then it wouldn’t be catering to class/racial tastes, but we both know that won’t happen. I’m just musing here, for the record. I’m grew up in D.C.; it was 70% black not too long ago. Most of the neighborhoods that looked like the loop 15 years ago look like the nice part of the loop now, and now the city is 50% white. I don’t know what that means, but there’s an undeniable correlation between the kind of urbanization we advocate (which has been very successful in DC) and an increase in white demographics, even if that’s not the intent.

        • Alex Ihnen

          FWIW: STL City was 60% white in ’70, 50% by ’90 and 44% today. The city was 41% black in ’70, 47% in ’90 and 49% today.

          • Daniel Layton

            I think those stats square well with my argument. The change we’re talking about is one restaurant on one block on the very edge of the city. It’s far from a city-wide movement at this point, while fleeing the city is still the overall trend, albeit a waining one. Urban (re)development is a nascent movement in St. Louis. In D.C. it’s already happened in a quarter of the city and still happening rapidly. My point is that if widespread contemporary urban development takes place in St. Louis, the white demographics will climb and the black demographics will decline, unless we somehow buck the trend of what’s happened in other cities.

        • megrot

          Daniel, are you aware that there is another fried chicken junk food/fast food joint within 50 yards north of this on Skinker? It’s called Lee’s fried chicken and it’s delicious. How is it “gentrification” if the junk food is still available to those that want it?

          • Daniel Layton

            Yes, I am aware, but if revitalization of the loop continues to pick up steam, it will likely be removed too. I’m not saying this is good or bad, I just think it’s worth thinking about.

    • It is definitely a business more heavily visited by black people than white, but that doesn’t mean it’s racially-centered or not.

      All you can say about the Church’s Chicken on the corner of Delmar and Skinker is that it was the location of more crime reports than any other part of the loop — fights, drugs, shootings, soliciting, etc.

      I think it was just around this time last year when about 300 kids/young adults (yes, mostly black) converged on the lot, fights broke out, and ultimately resulted in shots fired and several injured.

      If nothing else can or should be said, it should at least be noted that this open lot on an otherwise built-to-street stretch of Delmar attracted loitering and criminal activity.

      • Daniel Layton

        I agree with your comments. I’m not trying to force an agenda or anything, I just think we sometimes forget that, even through efforts to reduce crime and promote a desirable urban environment, the effect also tends to select for particular types of people, be it race, class, or whatever. I don’t know know if there is a way to have everything, or if that is even desirable, but I think it’s worth thinking about.

  • JustFlushIt

    The owners of that corner should bow down to Joe Edwards for making it so valuable.

  • Andy

    Church’s did seem out of place down there.

    One question; I remember hearing about the rise of unruly youths that made the Loop no longer a great place to be at night. Is that still the case? From the comments already posted it is hard to tell…

  • Jakeb

    That eyesore is finally gone! Great! It seemed as though the stinker on Skinker would be there forever. I think the east side of the Loop may finally come into being now. I hope its replacement is something that visually ties both sides of the Loop together. There’s a real opportunity now to make a bold visual statement about the whole Loop.

    • dempster holland

      well, you cant buy fried chicken anymore, but we got a nice Whole
      Foods store where you can buy more exotic food at a higher price.
      If you dont like the change, please leave

      • Alex Ihnen

        Amazingly, there remain a few places to buy cheap fried chicken in St. Louis. In this case, you have to travel 1,255 feet north to find another place.

        • Presbyterian

          If you don’t like Lee’s, you could also try KFC on Delmar to the east. They have Original and Extra Crispy, with sides of Diabetes, Heart Disease and Obesity. A block north from there, you’ll find another Church’s location and a Popeye’s. Perhaps we’ll need some wayfinding signs to direct people?

          • dempster holland

            judging by all the adverse comments about fried
            chicken places, I guess it is a matter of time before
            these places will have to go.

  • Don

    A mid century treasure (all mid century buildings are by definition treasures), this is a loss that will be felt for generations.

    • JustFlushIt

      Imagine if the chicken shack were shaped like a UFO…

      • Don

        Exactly! Although to me it is iconic exactly as it is. When I was too young to be going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Varsity Theater in the very late 70s, that Churches Chicken was right there. From my earliest days in the loop only 2 establishments remain — that Churches and Blueberry Hill.

        And now they’ve taken the Churches!

  • STL Pugilist

    The Loop reclaimed! Glad we can be done with the “youth” problems there. They descend every summer. Ahem.

  • T-Leb

    I’m interested to see what will come. That Church’s Chicken was a breading ground for problems. I’d guess with it being removed folks wanting to open up some small retail shops say, across the street where there is vacancies, will do so without that particular problem. Church’s wasn’t just an eye sore, real violent problems seemed to occur right there, perennially.

    • shatwood

      Outside of a Church’s Chicken? NO WAY!

      “Breading problem” has to be the best misspelling commenting on a story about a chicken restaurant

      • T-Leb

        That is funny! typo!

        • Presbyterian

          According to the health department, it was a breeding ground for lots of things.

          • samizdat

            Well, that’s just extra protein.