Dreams, Dead or Deferred: Division Bar

In early 2021, I was of the belief that the Covid era would be great time to develop, execute and fund a bar project in South St. Louis. I’d wind up doing just that, in a different location and with a very-different geographic bent later in 2021. But on January 12, 2021, I typed up the following idea for the old Mangia Italiano space and presented it to a possible investor/partner, as well as an interested owner-operator candidate for the original Mangia space; the investor would’ve been in on funding both operations. While I wasn’t glad at the time that Mr. Investor Super-Flake super-flaked on us, I’m happy that this work arrangement didn’t get farther in retrospect. And as other entities would wind up taking these spaces over… all’s well that ends well, I suppose.

That said, I still to this very day think that a Chicago-themed bar of this sort would make a ton of money in the right location and with the right management.

As I’m going through some old notes this afternoon, in a city a 15-hour car ride from Chicago, I’m feeling the need to share. In fact, if someone in St. Louis wants to pursue this, you have my blessing; consider this a legal “go for it” doc. The rest of y’all can make fun of me all you want, but you also know in your heart that this ain’t crazy. Anyway, here’s my early 2021 vision for Division:


The following information is intended as a basic outline for Division Bar, a drinking establishment located inside of the northern half of the long-running bar and restaurant Mangia Italiano, a staple of the South Grand business district. As envisioned here, Division Bar would exist alongside a new Mangia Italiano, headed up by a group including operator (name redacted).

Division Bar would be a separate business from the new Mangia in every way, from ownership to control of liquor license to staff to focus. The businesses would be complementary, but not competing and the inherent goal is that the management of each business would work to ensure the best-possible, longest-lasting relationship between the two. The new Mangia would live inside the classic barroom of Mangia, which includes the famous Wayne St. Wayne mural, “Mangia Evolutiano.” This side would include a full-service bar and restaurant, including the kitchen left by the previous iteration of Mangia.

Division Bar would exist on the other side of that business, in a space added by Mangia’s third ownership. Division Bar would live in a completely separated space, with first floor and basement bar capacities. Included in this model is a rebuilding of the wall separating the two spaces, or the room that was Mangia Italiano and the former Vintage Haberdashery. Two completely different experiences would be had inside the two rooms.


Division Bar is named after Division Street in Chicago and is also a nod to a division between the two former rooms of Mangia. The bar would be dedicated to Chicago, from the beer and spirits lineup to a wall of TVs showing the games by all the major sports franchises: Blackhawks (NHL), Bulls (NBA), White Sox and Cubs (MLB), Bears (NFL), Fire (MLS), Sky (WNBA). Programming of these sort would cover over 300 days of the year, with supplemental sports including teams from the University of Illinois. The basement bar could, in fact, be used as a dedicated room for those teams, or for a game room.


Division Bar would appeal to Chicago expats, as well as those who attended school in Illinois, particularly the University of Illinois. There would be some spillover from Mangia Italiano and other area bars, though Division Bar would be seen as a destination bar.

Division Bar would feature a 25-year-old age minimum, so that it wouldn’t be catering to a college clientele, or those still getting their drinking legs.


Draft beers, spirits, wines and canned beers would all be sourced from regional breweries, wineries and distillers. Nothing would be purchased from outside Missouri or Illinois, including the rail liquors. Nothing would be featured on draft if served at Mangia; we’d only ask Mangia not to sell Malort!


Division Bar would be able to run on a lean operation of no more than 8 staffers, plus management. On a weeknight, two bartenders, with a barback and/or door man on the weekends, and/or for bigger games. Thomas Crone would be an owner-operator and regular presence behind the bar. “Lean” comes in part from…


Division Bar would build a half-window into the kitchen of Mangia Italiano. The entire kitchen business would be run by Mangia. A bit of Chicago fare (e.g. brats) would be sufficient for the Division crowd. All monies earned would be Mangia’s. Our interest in the kitchen would only be to allow some food service for the Division Bar crowd, but all purchasing, recipe creation, staffing, etc, would belong to Mangia.


Division Bar would feature minimal seating in front, perhaps two four- or six-top tables. The side patio of the prior Mangia would remain as Mangia’s. Some smoking would take place outside with no smoking inside, obviously. There’d be zero tolerance for marijuana smoking anywhere on the Division side and no shared bottles or glassware would pass between businesses. {Please note that my 420 intolerance in 2021 was born of a different legal time frame; I’d also been working around a whole lotta potheads.}


Mangia and Division would have split entries. The pre-existing wall of the Mangia/Haberdashery days would be reinstalled. This would be our only major need, with a door built into the wall to allow staffers basement access. The window to the kitchen would also be a secondarily-large fix. Bathrooms would stay, as is. Stage, as is.


Division Bar would utilize the colors of the Chicago flag and work that iconography in our designs. No beer of liquor signage would be inside of Division Bar. We’d feature both sports and non-sports references to Chicago, with more mural than free-standing/-hanging works. The vibe would be clean and uncluttered upstairs, with drink rails, two- and four-tops. TVs would be on the north wall, as well as in nooks and crannies on the first floor. Additional TVs in basement. Sound would be on for games.


Division Bar contact teams in Chicago for staff shirts and the like and would feature the number 21 (for 2021). Thinking that a secondary team like the Fire or the Sky would be accommodating in providing us gear.


Service would begin at 4 pm daily and run until one hour after game times with a 1:30 am license sought; this means that some nights might end at 11 pm, let’s say, or even earlier. We’d have the flexibility to stay open with a great crowd, or could announce last call, depending on vibe. On days of day games (like Bears games on Sunday, or Cubs games throughout the spring and summer), we’d open one half-hour before gametime.


Likely, there’s a bar in Chicago that would be a good sibling bar. More research needed to see what bar this might be and how things could work.


Division Bar would have presence on the usual component of social media sites. We’d work to build up word-of-mouth through traditional media, thinking that the story of a Chicago-themed bar in St. Louis would be picked up by outlets in both cities without too much effort. We would set aside a small ad budget for other buys leading up to opening, then relax traditional advertising.


Good Intentions, Trust ‘Em

Hello. In 2022, I moved to Salt Lake City. And then back to St. Louis. And then to New Orleans.

Interesting things happened in each of these places. In Salt Lake, for example, I was able to work for both Salt Lake City Weekly and Salt Lake Magazine. Clips for both can be found through my Linktree.

I’m currently publishing a newsletter about the experience of moving to/discovering New Orleans. That new project is called Newbie Orleans. It’s done through the Substack platform and I’m trying to see if a paywall’s a good option; there’s an affiliated Instagram page, too. Gonna give this project the best that I can, while saying goodbye to a weekly experiment called Memory Hall, which gave me 63 weekly reasons to type from 2021-23. If it’s possible to thank a project that you’re personally responsible for, this is that project: thanks, Memory Hall, you were super-useful in my life.

The good intentions mentioned above relate to this site. Over the past half-dozen years, I’ve given up on it as much more than a placeholder, a location for clips, an archive of dead projects. Going forward, I’ll try to chip in a few thoughts here, without schedule or purpose.

Been a Minute

Before we hit the year mark of not posting, here’s a quick update on things.

I opened (and closed) a bar called Chatawa in South St. Louis.

I worked a variety of bar and restaurant jobs, even as Chatawa was operating.

I took a hiatus from paid writing work, save for a few, mostly-unseen marketing clips.

I started an email newsletter, which you can find at thomascrone.substack.com.

I wrote up my first entry while on vacation in New Orleans, a city where I expected to move.

I instead moved to Salt Lake City.

With a bit of luck there’ll be some new updates here soon.

Like, Life

Having to actually reference a calendar now; time’s moving so weirdly. But, yeah, it was on Saturday, March 14 (only five days ago!) that I was slow-walking through New Orleans and saw a coffeehouse called Mojo Coffee. I’d already had a cup down the block, but there was a charm to the place and with about two hours to kill before driving outta town, I sat down and watched people walk up-and-down Magazine Street, one of the great avenues in all of the US.

As cliche as it might be (there’ve been songs written about this particular feeling in this particular city for a reason), I caught myself wiping away a couple tears. It struck me hard that I might not be through town for a while. On my seventh run there since 2017, I was on a mission to not repeat much of anything this time ‘round and I’d done a pretty great job of not falling into habits, of not repeating visits to the handful of places that’d become my go-to’s while there. Instead, I made a very specific point to find new favorites, almost all of them south and west of the Quarter.

But back to wiping those tears… ‘cause hands and eyes and…

By the final day of a four-day trip, the news about Covid-19 was changing rapidly, though this was a discombobulating city in which to read the news. Throughout the city, I was one of a bajillion ants, all of us bouncing against one another on our individual, disjointed journeys. Though not partying even remotely hard, I was still finding myself in one restaurant after another, one bar after another, spotting in some museums and other attractions along the way. All the while, the news was suggesting that the next few weeks were going to be bumpy as hell. I was still in a bit of disbelief, though washing my hands a bit more professionally every day. It was almost a relief, then, to make the trip back home, taking time out a side trip for an oysteriffic lunch with a friend in Mississippi. By that point, even our quick hug goodbye felt… odd. Strange. New. Different. Concerning? Worrying? If I wasn’t taking things seriously before, by the time I’d hit the one-and-only Dupre Cafe of McComb, MS, my nerves were starting to feel the increased seriousness of this.

If that wasn’t enough to jab the emotions, the other thing registering with me in New Orleans was the fact that I’d be going back to a job, offered and accepted through a respected St. Louis brew pub and restaurant. With a half-day of training done just prior to my southern trip, I’d felt a distinct idea that I was under-qualified for the job, by the unofficial count of A Lot. Trying to stay positive, I tried to squash that feeling but it flooded over me when back for the official first day.

I didn’t make it through it, handing back my keys to the GM with apologies, no small bit of embarrassment, a distinct sense that I must’ve been hearing about a different job than the one offered and the overall, grating feeling that A Smarter Person would hang onto the salaried gig for the next week, or two, see where things were leading. Maybe the bar/restaurant wouldn’t even be open in a week, due to the crisis, but if I took a pass on things at that second, I’d be playing a really dumb, honor-based game on the eve of a pandemic and possible recession. Of course, I passed. Dumb. Yes. Honorable? Nah. Just dumb.

Three days later, my primary writing gig in St. Louis ceased to be a print publication and, most likely, a paying publication for now (and probably for a while). Though not sitting at the core of my money-making, it was nice to bring in $250-500 a month from a gig that was relatively low-stress and mostly-creative. Sigh. It’s been a week.

But it’s been a week for a lot of folks. And things could be way worse for me. Thanks to a kind pre-inheritance from family a year back, selling my partial share of a business and a late-in-life tendency towards saving, I’m okay for now and have an option for work coming post-shutdown. For the moment, I’m content to lay low, take walks, think, read. And, within the next 48-hours, I’ll either undertake a longstanding blog idea or I won’t. That’ll be my tiny challenge for the day.

Having taken about three-hours to finish this, I’m not sure that decision-making’s my strong suit at the moment, nor is completing, you know, things. But I’m gonna hit “publish” on this. By today’s standards, let’s call that a win.


Good Intentions

Wrote something. Posted it to Facebook. Will post it here, as well. It’s a Good Intention. We’ll see what comes of it.


There are days when fully-formed thoughts are there. You can’t deny them. You can choose, or not, to share them.

Last night, I filled in behind the bar, went home, was asleep by 2:30 am and was back to take a first pass at cleaning the floors and backbar by 8:30 am this morning. The money in my pocket was earned by serving drinks to a nice group of customers last night and the stress of this morning is only due to my forgetting to order a case of rail gin, which’ll trigger a trip to a distributor. Combined, this all says that: I co-own and operate a bar. Today, that’s what I do and defines who I am.

In an another reality, I’ve lived a decent chunk of adult life thinking that I’m A Writer (Who happened to do other things for most-to-all of my income.) And, to degrees, I’ve been A Writer. A freelancer, specifically. Who’s mostly written about one topic: St. Louis. (Finding a niche is what all those Be a Writer stories tell you to do; well, I did it!)

At this second, I have one freelance piece assigned. One. Strangely, I’m not mad, sad, or glad about this.

Through various realities (some self-imposed, some brought on the largest of media/tech trends), my little life as a St. Louis-centric freelance journalist has become a really small, isolated sort of Hobbit Hole. It’s tiny in here! I can’t assume a life here, a living here, despite spending large chunks of the last year having coffees, sharing drinks, peeking at LinkedIn and sending endless emails to change the pace of assigned work.

As of today, I’m accepting the fact that I’m open to chasing a story, but I’m no longer open to chasing the assignment of that story.

(Re: the personal part of that, I recently had a story assigned, a large and good one. It was found by luck and, yes, some old-fashioned work, experience and institutional knowledge. I then was compromised on the piece due to some possible work implications. Though I recused myself from only this one piece, I think it symbolized a greater problem of conflicts of interest that’ve plagued me of late. This has happened a lot, actually. It’s time to step back from these conflicts, or to own them.)

There’s a web project that’s been on my mind for the past few months; it’s come into clarity at moments, gone into the fog at others. It’d be a self-assigned thing. Without major financial ramifications to my life. I could chase down ideas at my pace. I could write a bit more truly. (And without editorial support, I can publish more typos, but at my own special clip! Boo!) It’s time to buy a URL, type it up, take things back to the early-2000s. That’s the plan. And my personal blog’s like an old car, sitting on blocks in the front yard; I’ll try to clean up that “project” and make it a thing again, too. Or not! How freeing! Hopefully, some of this will make my happy, or happier.

So my Friday’s been useful. How about yours? Have you seen the trees today!?


Digital Bread Crumbs

Pretty much a third of my book intake centers on media studies and the places of convergence between tech, science, civics and mass communications. I’m a nerd; this you knew.

In a recently-read Tim Wu book, “The Attention Merchants,” his last chapter touches on the loss of readership for single-interest sites. It really struck a true note, as I used to care about some esoteric things, like PXLvision cameras or Ed Wood films or the history of the SDS. And in the early days of the web, there was a certain excitement in mining for info, finding sites that were specific to these niche interests; no matter how well they executed, it was nice to find fellow travelers in the corners of the Weird Web. In some respects, the personal blog evolved this same sense of loss, with individual citizens moving their musings, their field notes, their writing tests onto social media.

Yesterday, I was contacted by someone who I’d interviewed a time/two over the years, regarding some pretty esoteric public events that he’d thrown over the years. He’d written a piece about Artica and wanted to grab some pics from past years. In fact, he told me, the pics were already in the piece and, well, did I mind if he used them? I didn’t mind. I’m glad someone/anyone takes the time to sketch out long pieces under their own banner and if some long-forgotten pictures help the story along, great.

For me, the following was an unexpected, entertaining read. Maybe you’ll find it the same: Artica and the Essence of Wabi-Sabi by Lew Blink.

Happy web surfing, dudes.


The 2019 Book List

January: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore; You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories, by Curtis Sittenfeld; The Attention Merchants: The Epic Battle to Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu; Digital Renaissance: What Data and Economics Tell Us About the Future of Popular Culture by Jared Waldfogel

February: Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. by Jeff Tweedy; The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates; The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google by Nicholas Carr

March: Farm City: The Education of An Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter; The Freedom Manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson; The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris; Free Will by Sam Harris; This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Phillips; Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

April: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari; Shake the Devil Off by Ethan Brown; Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis; Gone Feral by Novella Carpenter; The View From Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America by Sarah Kendzior

May: State of the Union by Nick Hornby; Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha; No Walls and the Recurring Dream by Ani Difranco; Lafayette Square: An Urban Renaissance by Timothy Conley; Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris

June: How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan;

July: The St. Louis Anthology edited by Ryan Schuessler; Ship It by Britta Lundin; How Soon is Never? by Mark Spitz; St. Louis Sound by Steve Pick & Amanda Doyle; Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

August: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

September: Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell; How to Stop Time by Matt Haig; Born a Crime by Trevor Noah; Possum Living by Dolly Freed; Waiter Rant: Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica

October: Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra Ginsberg; Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld; Raised in Captivity: Fictional Nonfiction by Chuck Klosterman

November: The Lifespan of a Fact by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal


Some Wayne St. Wayne Vignettes

If you’ve come here after reading a remembrance of Wayne St. Wayne at the Riverfront Times site, I thank you. I hope it provided some information about his fascinating life and times. I also thank his son David Ermatinger, along with David’s wife Allison Lispki Ermatinger, for filling in some gaps.

What the piece could only hint at, within the constraints of space, was the unique personality of the man. For what felt like years, I saw Wayne on a regular basis, often at Mangia Italiano, but also at other spots around town. When going to clubs along the early Washington Avenue, for example, I can definitely remember visits to the back door of Creepy Crawl, just to say “hello” and to check-in on whatever news story he had to share. These may not be wild, but here’re a handful of quick stories…

Knew this person once. We’ll call her Chrissie, as that was her name. We dated, she moved to Chicago, we broke up. The usual people-in-their-early-20s story. At some point in about 2000, I reconnected for a short visit with her in Chicago, though nothing rekindled on that one level. I did promise her a piece of art, a Wayne St. Wayne original. Asked her what she wanted him paint and she said “corn cobs in space.” I asked Wayne for the piece and he promised to knock it out. Months passed. At least a full year passed. I lost all contact with the painting’s muse. And since 2002, I’ve owned a copy of “corn cobs in space,” which turned out very nice, the helmeted cobs shooting through the universe with fiery tails. So, yeah, a missed deadline on that one…

The flipside here is that you could always luck into a phonecall about a “fabulous deal.” Once, I picked up the phone and Wayne was offering a rent’s-due deal on a piece called “Monster Battle at the Shenandoah Theatre,” which had been hanging in a South Grand storefront for years. He offered to sell the $110 piece for $70. I declined, with hesitation. When he called back with a price of $40, I went up to the shop and paid my cash. It’s another record, a crazy awesome piece. Love it still…

Wrestling. Wayne was a wrestler. He’d tell you stories about his days touring the upper Midwest and central/western Canada. More often, he’d tell stories about Wrestling at the Chase, and all the superstars of the old NWA. He was generous in sharing those stories and, sometimes, pictures. Here’s a little something we collabroated on for thecommonspace.org

Speaking of wrestling, I can’t remember if I’ve hung up the wash, or taken down the wash, or even done the wash. You know, that today kinda stuff. But I can remember the first time I saw Wayne wrestle, under his alter-ego name of Doctor Blood. It was at Affton High School, on a weekend afternoon show that featured a former WWF/WCW star, or two, who’d play out their careers matched up against local talents. I can distinctly recall Wayne’s general act, with involved a lot of whining to the ref, feigning of injuries, complaints aimed at the crowd and lotsa cheap shots. A sweetheart in real life, Wayne was weirdly-cast as a heel, on one level. But on another, he was so committed to the sport that there’s no way he wouldn’t commit to whatever role kept him in the game. He was good at the job…

Last one. And the difficult one to write. In mid-/late-November of 2018, a friend of Wayne’s reached out to me, noted that his health had taken a bad turn and that he was open to telling some stories. Then he wasn’t well enough to chat, then communications ground down. In reality, I let a day become two, a day become a week. With mortality sort of on my periphery at an unusual amount in the last year, the thought of seeing him ill jarred me; my selfish desire to not be put in an uncomfortable moment outweighed his desire to tell some stories. He’s passed now; it’s too late to make the call. I’d love to say that this will make a great difference in my own communications with people, but I’ll likely fall back into bad habits. I do own Wayne a call, though, and always will. I hope some of these words and the words in the RFT are of use in letting some stories be known…

So that wasn’t the last note. This is. We shot a li’l Pixelvision film back in 1997, inside Mangia and his apartment’s kitchen. Feels like yesterday…




The KDHX History Project: Making the Case

Long story short(ish): I wanted to change the way I freelance in 2018. Part of that would simply mean working a little harder; that’s controllable. What’s not as self-contained is figuring out funding, as outlets continue to cut budgets and rates; concurrent to this, our culture’s become somewhat numbed to patron-based, crowdfunding appeals, what with so many good, solid things needing that group push.

That climate be damned, I set out on a crowdfunding appeal.

It’s pretty-simply named, this idea: The KDHX History Project. The notion is to gather pre-existing items from the KDHX archives, like posters, flyers and the old Airwaves magazines, digitizing as much as possible. And then adding interviews with a wide range of folks: volunteers; (current and former) programmers; (current and ex-) staffers; musicians who’ve appeared on the station; basically any stakeholders in the station’s 30-year history. And because this is an online project, why not add the vast array of media already available and online, but possibly scattered across multiple platforms.

At the end, it’ll be something of a book and something of a website. Free for all, in the spirit of the station.

Trying to line up about that many chapters, I sketched out a few immediately: the history and context of KDNA; histories of the buildings that’ve housed KDHX (on Magnolia, Delmar/Euclid, Washington); profiles of affiliated programs and businesses (Squatter’s Cafe, Folk School); remembrances of programmers who left our airwaves (and world) too soon; reminders of the local origination/cable access programs of lore. I’d love to address bigger picture items, like the role of radio today vs. at the time of the station’s debut. It’d be fun to summarize what the St. Louis music scene was like 31-years ago. And why not check in with stations of a similar bent, like WWOZ or KEXP?

And while some folks were kind enough to kick in on the early portion of the Indiegogo campaign, I didn’t do a few things that I should’ve done prior to launch. I might’ve shared sneak peeks with more key members of the KDHX stakeholding community; planting seeds, if you will, for the later effort. I heard from other folks who encouraged the project, but I didn’t nail down specific help that they could/would offer and I’m reaching back out to them now. And, to be honest, this type of fundraising’s a little tough for a private, self-conscious person to do; I can’t help but feel that the project’s up-or-down-success-or-failure future is somewhat tied to me, as a human, not just the project. In a social media age, I imagine a lot of us have had that feeling when shaking the digital cup. It’s awkward. It kinda sucks. It also makes some projects happen. Hopefully, this one.

I wanna do this project. I have a good resource for copyediting/proofing and research, a just-departed KDHX staffer in Allison Jane Wilson. I can dedicate the time needed to pull this off in a first-class way, if given the financial support to do so; that would allow to trim back on other, short-range work. To repeat: I wanna do this project.

So it’s time to get to real work. Time to close the gap of funding with two-weeks-and-change to go. Time to show some resolve and to get past high-school-era neuroses, on a personal level. Time to make the case, as… I wanna do this project!