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Shop Talk: Turning A Corner

A husband-and-wife duo put a new spin on the traditional corner store.

Photograph by Kevin A. Roberts

For years, it seemed as if the corner of Argonne Drive and North Clay Avenue in Kirkwood just couldn’t get it together. Signs in the windows at first indicated that tapas restaurant Mosaic might be moving in. After a while, though, those signs vanished, leaving only worn floorboards coated in dust. Then, one day in early July, Clay & Cotton—a women’s-apparel and home-goods boutique—suddenly appeared, its cheery window displays a great contrast to the once-barren atmosphere.

On a Sunday morning in October, it’s an hour before the boutique opens. Every 10 minutes or so, passersby peer through the glass to scan neatly displayed goodies, from clothing and hand lotions to furniture and rugs. Inside, David Schreiner shuffles around in his socks—not his usual attire. “Only on Sunday mornings,” he states. As co-owner of the 3,200-square-foot shop, he can do those sorts of things, especially since he’s running the show at Clay & Cotton’s newest location. His wife and business partner, Margaret Taylor, keeps busy with their other two stores in Louisville, Ky.

But don’t let Taylor’s distance fool you: Schreiner, who called St. Louis home for a decade, considers himself more of an operational manager focusing on marketing and sales. The true inspiration behind the store’s brands, looks, and displays comes from his wife of six years. Taylor, who holds a Ph.D. in education, launched her first store in a tiny, one-room spot in a Victorian house selling dresses by April Cornell and pottery by Nicholas Mosse—hence the store’s name.

That initial store’s influence remains. Tableware by Nicholas Mosse can be found in back. Dresses and women’s tops from designers like Nic + Zoe, XCVI, and Tyler Böe are in front. And you can’t move an inch without bumping into gifty items like Cucina soaps, Archipelago candles, and La Compagnie de Provence bath soaps.

It’s like something dreamed up by Martha Stewart’s hip younger sister.

“Margaret has this wonderful eye for picking product that she loves,” Schreiner explains. “Her thing is, ‘If I don’t like it, then no one else will. If I do, then maybe some will.’ But she has really been successful in that.”

The best-selling items at the new shop are actually made of neither cotton nor clay: area rugs from Company C, handcrafted from 100 percent wool. While most of the items in the store fall in the $50 to $200 price range, the larger rugs can cost upward of $3,600.

“We’ve sold more rugs here than I can count,” says Schreiner. “Not that it’s extraordinary, but we are doing more business than the other two stores, and they have been there for almost four years.”

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