Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Store `Staff' Mouths off - and Customers Love It

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Store `Staff' Mouths off - and Customers Love It

Article excerpt

Nobody really knows who rules the roost at Creve Coeur Botanicals - 67-year-old owner Jacob Jost or 48-year-old Charlie.

Both like customers. Both like to talk.

Jost is a ruddy, German Homo sapiens. Charlie is a feathery African Grey Parrot. And he's roosted at the garden shop's location, 10977 Olive Boulevard, for 27 years. Jost has worked there for five. After customers buy Jost's terra cotta planters, squirrel-proof hummingbird feeders, or batches of the heartiest perennials, they stand by the cage at the front of the store and enjoy a chat with Charlie. "Phone," Charlie said one recent morning to Jost. "Phone." "Yeah," said Jost. "We'll get the phone." Jost, a shuffling, soft-spoken man with a sharp wit, takes his responsibility for Charlie the icon in stride. For years, Jost explained, the building housed a pet store with all kinds of animals - including birds. Five years ago, the pet store closed and became a garden shop with one holdover - Charlie. "He loves to dance, he's extremely gregarious, and he likes to be petted," said Jost. "Generally, he's mouthing off all day long." And, said Jost, he mouths off in several different voices. He'll imitate Jost; a little girl; and Mrs. Hass, a woman who worked at the store years ago. He'll also imitate Herman Plegge, the man who owned the pet store. Plegge, Jost said, died two years ago. "He'll say, `You ought to get some hermit crabs,' and `Female canaries don't sing.' That's from the pet store," said Jost. Charlie ruffled his grey feathers and broke into a human-sounding whistle. "That," explained Jost, "is part of Herman Plegge's whistling." Charlie preserves a bit of history in other ways, say customers, who sometimes bring in their children and grandchildren for a bit of bird-on-one conversation. "The bird's what keeps us coming back," joked Thelma Altom of Creve Coeur. …

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