Included in Rand McNally and USA Today’s annual “Best of the Road” list of top local destinations, Penny Lane Coffeehouse beckons travelers, commuters, and café denizens alike with its organic, fair-trade coffee and other steamy sips. Sleep-fogged cerebellums perk up with java and a dollop of organic cream or milk squeezed from 100% organic milk berries. Yellow-, orange-, and red-toned walls hung with artwork flank a chalkboard menu of liquids free from the viscous grasp of corn syrup. Patrons can absorb the sounds of classic rock, jazz, and old-school hip-hop or retire to the couches of a cozy reading corner with a fully laden bookshelf maintained by a caffeine-fueled book imp.
Being the first espresso bar in St. Louis had its drawbacks. When The Brevé Coffee Company opened its doors in 1995, the concept of a latte was unfamiliar to most residents in the downtown area, and the shop only made $58 its first day in business. But as owner Kevin Wiesehan and his wife added in flavorful small-batch-roasted coffee beans, a panini press, and savory café food, business started to boom. Brevé now has three locations throughout the St. Louis area.
In these coffee shops, baristas serve up expertly poured coffees alongside sandwiches, veggie wraps, and salads. Hand-dipped ice-cream treats with Ghirardelli chocolate, shots of house espresso, or foamy pours of root beer are both decadent and refreshing, much like waltzing with an ice sculpture of Fred Astaire.
In 1927, thousands of feet above the Atlantic, Charles Lindbergh was shielded from the elements only by the Spirit of St. Louis' thin linen covering. His eyes, though, boasted much sturdier protection on that historic flight—a custom pair of goggles designed by brothers A.P. and August Erker. More than 80 years and four generations later, the Erker name still stands behind high-quality optics.
Jack Erker Jr., great-grandson of August, presides over the business's two present-day locations, which have also played their part in adorning famous eyes. During Jack's tenure, Will Smith, John Goodman, and Shaquille O'Neal have all stopped in to swap needlepoint tips and grab a pair of stylish frames, which are sourced from Italian and German design houses, as well as his own manufacturing division, Studio Optyx.