ST. LOUIS – It’s become a destination in the Shaw neighborhood – Gringo Jones Imports. Earlier this year, owner Leon Jones announced he would be closing the eclectic store in March. Now, Jones says he’s not going anywhere. He’s staying right here in St. Louis.
The whole town is talking about the Jones store because he’s decided to stay in town.
“I listed the building and got some good offers, some really good offers,” Jones said. “But we had so many people, it was almost embarrassing. Hundreds of people came by or called and said, ‘You can’t close, you can’t close, you can’t close.’ That, combined with the deal I was trying to make in Illinois for some property that fell through, I was like, ‘Okay, we’ll stay.’ So, we took it off the market last week.”
When Jones announced he was closing earlier this spring, there was an uproar.
“We’re a little bit like Cheers,” said store manager Rod Nelson. “I think there’s people that like to come in because we like them and they like us. It’s a little bit like going where everyone knows your name. We’re excited to see them. Through all these 25 years, we’ve made friendships that you know, you can’t take away. Really fun, interesting people and we know two or three generations of families.”
But Jones decided to stay put and continue providing peculiar and colorful items, importing them from Mexico.
“You know, I come to work, I do my job, I go home and come to work, but I never really thought about how many people really like coming here, or it’s a destination, or people coming in from out of town,” Jones said. “We’re sort of a micro mini-tourist attraction now and I like it.”
And like a good neighbor that’s staying put, others are excited about the decision.
“I even got a call from a lady in Scotland who had heard we were closing and was upset about it, because she comes here to visit and said this is her favorite place to visit,” Jones said. “But, you know, the garden on one end, the Hill on the other, and Interstate 44 a couple blocks away, it’s a good location for us.”
Jones says he’s not going anywhere. In fact, most days you can find him at the store from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.