Clayton Memories

Take a stroll down Memory Lane in Clayton, Missouri

Suzanne Langlois

Interview by Claire Millett

Mrs. Langlois says she first moved to Clayton for the school system: she saw it as the perfect place to raise children, and she felt the school system unified the residents in a way she had never found in the city. However, it was not only the fantastic school system which attracted her. Mrs. Langlois is the owner of Kaldi’s, and she saw the DeMun neighborhood in Clayton as a the perfectly unique place to open her business. The neighborhood is beautiful: designed in the “New Town” style, it combines residential housing with storefront retail, in addition to being surrounded by parks. However, although this DeMun was “the perfect little pocket,” before Mrs. Langlois opened Kaldi’s the merchant strip of the town mostly consisted of sleepy antique stores which were often closed. Before Kaldi’s, there were no local coffee houses in the Clayton area, not even a Starbucks. Residents bustled around, coming from the parks and the seminary, but had nowhere to “hang out.” Where Kaldi’s is now was the location of a Transcendental Meditation company: there was no public place to bring the community together. Upon hearing that Transcendental Meditation was moving, Mrs. Langlois lept at the chance to establish her business in that location, seeing it as the perfect place for a coffee house. Hence, Kaldi’s was born.

When she first opened the doors, Mrs. Langlois recounts that a woman walked in and “wagged her finger” at her, saying that no one would ever pay more than 99 cents for coffee, especially if they did not offer unlimited refills, and that Mrs. Langlois’ business would never make it. However, while this woman’s business failed five years later, Mrs. Langlois’ thrived, especially moving into the early 2000s. For her, it was as though the DeMun neighborhood had its own Renaissance Forest Park was renovated, turning “from a great park to a truly magnificent park.” Washington University experienced its meteoric rise from a lesser known university to being on par with many of the Ivy League schools. As a result, more and more people came to the neighborhood to experience the junction of residential and commercial communities. As a result, DeMun became a true “New Town,” as its designer Henry Wright had first envisioned.

Her favorite memory as a business owner occurred after she first installed outdoor seating at Kaldi’s. Before, the corner had been dead. However, as soon as Mrs. Langlois installed those chairs and tables outside, she suddenly began to hear people’s voices: people were talking and laughing with each other, simply enjoying each other’s company. The corner had been transformed into something with a pulse, the center of all of DeMun.

Mrs. Langlois has loved her life in Clayton, both as a mother and a business owner. She has not only lived in Clayton, but truly brought life to the DeMun neighborhood, shaping it into what it is today.


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