Among the neighborhood locals, Evan Sult and Paige Brubeck's Sleepy Kitty Graphic Arts is often referred to as Cherokee Street's foremost storefront-less business. But the company's lack of an "Open" sign and welcome mat doesn't do anything to dissuade the duo's fervent passion for their block. Eleven caught up with Sleepy Kitty's co-owners to discuss Cherokee, late nights, and fine cuisine. See more of their work at http://sleepykittyarts.co.nr, and catch highlights from our interview below.
Could you drum up some experience, or some story that happened that made you just say “Man, that’s Cherokee?”
Paige: It happens all the time. Recently we were walking down the street when we heard some…positive sounds…and we look and we heard the Peat mobile and a ton of people in costume doing a photoshoot for Cinco de Mayo. Just in the middle of the day in front of Latino Americana, Peat Wollager and his awesome truck. And we’re just like…that’s Cherokee street! That’s awesome.
Evan: People talk about St Louis being a small town; we think of it instead as a short story. It’s a limited cast of characters who play multiple roles that kind of keep recurring. It feels…we don’t have a TV…but it feels not unlike TV where you walk down the street and there’s this sort of unrealistic number of familiar faces, and situations that you get to see unfold right in front of you. It’s really rewarding to feel like you’re part of this ongoing narrative. And new people are kind of cycling in and out of the narrative, but the narrative is engrossing. Just being a part of the street is engrossing.
So what do you like doing here? What do you like best about the neighborhood?
Paige: La Vallesana. [And] there’s a new record store.
Evan: Yeah, there’s a new record store [Phono-Mode]…it’s like…[Cherokee is] the hippest possible street in any city…but it’s in St. Louis. You could put this street in New York, or Chicago, or Seattle, and it would still be the coolest street.
Paige: Cherokee is the reason people move to NY and LA, but it’s affordable. And people are actually doing the thing here that people in NY and LA say they’re going to do. People here are actually starting bands and magazines and vintage clothing stores, or weird art galleries, or all-vinyl record stores, or working on comics.
Evan: When I was a kid in Bellingham, Washington we would go to Vancouver, BC, and go to a district called Robson Street. It used to be underground…I just saw it during the Olympics and it doesn’t seem to be underground anymore. But I used to be able to find bootleg tapes, and cool weird boots, and y’know, just freaky underground stuff. And I loved it. I loved the architecture, and I loved the feel that I just didn’t know what I was going to come upon next, and sure enough, that’s what this street feels like. And here there are so many open storefronts that the street’s just an idea factory. We walk by and wonder, “what could go in the old Globe [building],” “what could go in the old, tiny passage way that could somehow also be a business?”
What’s next for the street? What’s missing?
Paige: Late night pan-Asian affordable pickup, open til at least midnight.
That’s oddly specific!
Evan: Paige knows exactly what’s missing.
Paige: Yeah, I’ve got a few spaces in mind.
And you’ve got the exact menu…
Paige: [Laughs] I just want a place to get pad thai for under $7 after 11:30.
Evan: Yeah I mean, I think late night is the missing component right now. Street lights and late nights.
Paige: Foam being open past 10 is missing. Just having a place to go past 10:00 on Cherokee Street is missing. And for us that means 9:00, which is usually when we finish printing, or practicing.
Evan: Cherokee street is really such a tight knit group of people who are setting up their businesses and livelihoods on Cherokee, and I do feel like they have yet to be…like there’s not quite the structure to give everyone late nights. Like we pass a lot of parties and stuff, but kind of 7-day a week late night hasn’t happened yet. And that will be glorious.
Paige: And even just feeling like you could walk out on Cherokee street at 9 or 10:00 and feel like there’s something going on would be very satisfying. In our old neighborhood you could do that and you could go to a show or go to a corner store. Just having a place where you could say “I want to go out to a bar,” or even “I want to go out to run an errand…” Having that late night dialogue – even if it’s some people going down the street to a show, and others going down to pick up paper towels, and others to meet their friends at a show, I just want people walking down the street that are doing things!
Evan: But that’s that. The rest of the street functions really well. There’s a high level of interaction and communications. St Louis is a great city because people are so eager to collaborate. Cherokee is a great neighborhood because people are so eager to collaborate. There are more opportunities here than Sleepy Kitty can get to, and I imagine that’s true for a lot of people. There are more shows available to see, or to play, whether they’re music or art or craft shows, just weird get-togethers. We can’t keep up with all of them! And I don’t know how everybody gets the energy, but there’s just a ton of energy on Cherokee and there seems to be a lot of energy in St Louis.