Home > Uncategorized > Cape Girardeau: Stuck Between St. Louis and Memphis

Cape Girardeau: Stuck Between St. Louis and Memphis

I live near Cape Girardeau, Missouri, so frequently am subjected to advertising from local businesses. Many of these advertisers, as a source of pride, remark that they are the biggest (fill in the blank) between St. Louis and Memphis. To me these ads are indicative of one or more of the following:

  • Many Cape Girardeau businesses have a narrow view of what success means – believing that being the largest or most successful business in their field, between St. Louis and Memphis is a major accomplishment.
  • These businesses are modern-day subscribers to something akin to the flat earth theory. Their world is bounded at one pole by St. Louis and at the other pole by Memphis. Nothing exists outside of these two poles, except for – perhaps – Cape Girardeau in the middle.
  • Local businesses lack ambition – satisfied to be the big fish in a little pond.
  • The businesses lack self-confidence, happy to live in the shadows of their more accomplished “siblings” in St. Louis and Memphis.
  • We’re mediocre and proud of it. We’re not as good as the businesses in St. Louis and Memphis. We hope locals can’t afford the extra gas money to drive to St. Louis and Memphis to check out our competitors. If they do, we’re screwed.
Yes, I am exaggerating for effect, but I find the whole meme of being the best business between St. Louis and Memphis to be both puzzling and troubling. The Internet has become a great leveler, allowing businesses to become competitive on a national and international basis. 

One of the problems I have noticed with many businesses in Cape Girardeau is that their customer service is lacking. Although I think this has improved somewhat since the economic downturn, many still do not compare to the level of service delivered by their competitors in St. Louis.

As an example, my wife and I recently purchased a new vehicle. We first went to a local dealer, found the vehicle we wanted, and really liked the sales representative. However, his boss, who we had to dicker with over the vehicle price was obnoxious, rude and very high pressure – all the things we hate about the whole buying a vehicle experience.

So, we decided to look online for a vehicle. We found a dealer in St. Louis who offered the same price we were offered for the vehicle in Cape Girardeau, but for the next step up in model. This dealer had an Internet sales department. They sent us a video of the vehicle created for us and sent via email. When we went to the dealership they put very little pressure on us to buy. The offered us a discounted Internet price and gave us near the maximum trade-in value for my old, beat up van. The Cape Girardeau dealer wasn’t even serious competition for the St. Louis dealer despite their being the biggest between St. Louis and Memphis. Sadly, not only did they lose on price – but they were destroyed on the basis of customer service and professionalism.

But, I think the whole idea of Cape Girardeau being stuck between St. Louis and Memphis is indicative of a much larger failure of vision for the city. Cape Girardeau has any number of themes which have been used to sell the city to tourists: “City of Roses”, “Where the river turns a thousand tales”, and “Cape Girardeau: We’re Number 1 Between St. Louis and Memphis”. OK, I just made that last one up. I have yet to see any significant concentration of roses anywhere in Cape Girardeau. I have never heard the Mississippi River near Cape Girardeau tell one single tale. These slogans are just empty marketing. The slogan might just well be: “Your town sucks, come to Cape Girardeau where at least we have a mall and restaurants.” 

Recently Cape Girardeau did manage to win a casino project. This casino project largely came about because a few individuals had a larger vision for what they hoped Cape Girardeau would be.

Growing up I lived in Twisp, Washington – a sleepy little town in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Near Twisp is Winthrop – an even smaller town. However, unlike Twisp, Winthrop was a major tourist trap as it had themed its town an on old west town. I have often wondered why Cape Girardeau didn’t theme the old downtown area with an old riverboat town theme. Or, instead, Cape Girardeau could take a page out of the Victoria, B.C. playbook and make the City of Roses theme real by placing roses around the city. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, and having visited Victoria, B.C. as a child, I can tell you that their hanging baskets are gorgeous and a major part of the tourism draw.

All it takes is a little vision and the confidence to step out of the shadows of St. Louis and Memphis. It’s a big world and a city, or town for that matter, if it chooses can be the best at something. Right now, I feel like Cape Girardeau has chosen to be the best at being stuck between St. Louis and Memphis. That, however, won’t help Cape Girardeau win the future. It’s time for Cape Girardeau to open its eyes and see that there is a larger world that exists outside the bounds of St. Louis and Memphis.
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