Jonathan Parker, who owns Parker’s Table in Richmond Heights, Missouri, started his career more than 30 years ago as a buyer and beverage manager at the Saint Louis Club.
His work there caught the eye of Anthony Bommarito, who hired Parker as the first salesperson at A. Bommarito Wines. A trip to Italy in the early 1990s inspired Parker to create a “small, thoughtful, personalized wine shop” in the St. Louis area. Parker’s Table opened in 1995 and is now heading into a new chapter as it unveils a tasting room, which opens this month.
How has your role at Parker’s Table changed over the years? This is a business where when you walk in, you can see the individual enthusiasm of each person who works in the shop – from Chris [Chartrand] on the beer wall, to Simon [Lehrer] the cheesemonger and spirits buyer, Jay [Stringer] in the kitchen, and me trying to stay out of the way and let them do their thing. Over the years, I’ve evolved into more of a set designer and low-key stage manager. I try to provide everyone who works here a space to show off what they know. Hopefully in a few more years, the people who work here can run the place on their own!
Tell us about the tasting room. The side of the shop with the tasting room was originally a market called DeMun Market and Parker’s Table was originally the Richmond Heights Post Office. Oakland Avenue was a main street until the 1930s; that’s why a market and a post office were here. It’s a lost snippet of history. We can comfortably get up to 50 people in [the tasting room]. There’s a Mad Men, lounge-y feel. The tables come from the Chicago Ritz-Carlton and the chairs come from the Cheshire Inn. The posts were cut from one beam that came out of The Schlafly Tap Room. My friend Paul Casey, who was a carpenter, saved that beam years ago to make way for a stairwell. [Local woodworker] David Stine quartered it. The corks at the front of the bar come from the shop; they make a map of the Missouri River Valley.
How will the kitchen at Parker’s Table help you grow your business? Jay Stringer, who enjoyed stints at Spiaga in Chicago and Elaia, is in the kitchen. Most of us come into this shop out of restaurants; it’s nice to have a kitchen so we can play with matching wines and food and not treat them as isolated elements to a meal. That’s always been the idea of the shop.
Why is St. Louis a good place for Parker’s Table? I’m from Nashville; coming to St. Louis was a revelation to me in what a city with deep roots could be like. The loyalty of the people of St. Louis to their local small businesses and [their] interest in people who operate them really appealed to me. It doesn’t exist just in the retail scene but the food scene in general; it’s a very collegiate and collaborative environment.
Parker's Table, 7118 Oakland Ave., Richmond Heights, Missouri, 314.645.2050, parkerstable.com