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Couple's Tower Grove South home used to be a corner grocery store

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Neighbors strolling past Keri Morgan and Steve Schmidt's Tower Grove South home might mistake it for a local corner bar or restaurant due to its large storefront windows and inviting entry pergola. They wouldn't be too far off the mark. Now a single-family home, the building, built in 1908, was a neighborhood grocery until the 1950s and is believed to have also housed a bar and possibly a speakeasy at different times.

The couple had been living in the nearby Southwest Gardens neighborhood before buying the home in January 2021. "I always had Tower Grove South envy," says Morgan. "I stalked Zillow for a long time. This house was on the market for a while, and I just kept watching it."

Schmidt was adamantly against even looking at it, but when they went inside, they both immediately fell in love with the space.

"When you walk in, it just feels very unique and special," Morgan says. "The tin ceilings are so cool. There are so many things about it that feel original and nostalgic."

Converted around 2010-2013 by its then owners, the home's living space has an open, loft-like feel. Light fills the large entry space from the glass door and enormous windows, providing a hospitable environment for Morgan's vast collection of plants and succulents, displayed on vintage shelves and in pots of all shapes and sizes. They purposely kept the entry uncluttered and without furniture other than a vintage armchair near the window. "I love the negative, open space," Morgan says.

A large, built-in divider of open shelves filled with more plants separates the entry from the cozy living room area with a large, leather sectional and wall-mounted TV. Off to the side, a beautiful built-in wood bar creates an ideal spot for entertaining. "People gravitate toward the bar," says Schmidt.

At Home with Keri Morgan and Steve Schmidt in Tower Grove

The Tower Grove South home was once a corner grocery and still has the original storefront windows. A fenced patio with a pergola helps with privacy and provides a relaxing outdoor space.

Though they have no proof or record, people in the neighborhood have told the couple that the area that is now their kitchen was once a corner bar called Betty's Tavern in the 1990s. Schmidt believes an area in the corner where previous owners installed a fireplace may have once been the bar's restroom due to a covered window visible from the exterior and a framed-out area in the tin ceiling. The kitchen includes its own sitting area plus a large granite-topped island.

The building's second floor, once an apartment occupied by the grocery store owners, includes four bedrooms and two full baths. The spacious primary bedroom has original pocket doors separating it from another cozy sitting area with a fireplace and a round window seat in the building's turret — a favorite napping spot for the couple's two rescue dogs. 

The couple recently completed a full renovation of the previously unfinished basement to create a guest apartment with a living area, full kitchen, full bath and two bedrooms where her parents, who live out of state, can stay for long visits. "They have their own space so they can come for a month and be totally separate," Morgan says.

The couple worked with C.R.E.W. Construction to complete the space and engaged Focal Point finishing to create a custom marbled epoxy floor. Steve says overly decorative columns in the otherwise unfinished basement could be evidence the space was once a speakeasy. "The family who owned the store apparently had a history of speakeasies," he notes.

Morgan and Schmidt love entertaining in their unique home, as well as relaxing and enjoying the front patio, Tower Grove Park and nearby restaurants and bars on Morganford Road.

At Home with Keri Morgan and Steve Schmidt in Tower Grove

Keri Morgan and Steve Schmidt at their home which used to be a corner store in their Tower Grove neighborhood, Friday, July 29, 2022. Photo by Hillary Levin,

Do you have an interesting or well-designed home? If your home — or the home of someone you know — has a great story to tell, we'd love to feature it as one of our weekly "At Home" stories. 

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