50 Most Intriguing Women: Melanie Stith
By Shadress Burks
We’ve all seen them come and go. Club after club, we’ve shifted from one place to the next as one opens their doors, while the other closes. Though, we haven’t quite figured out how or why, nightclub owner Melanie Stith seems to have the secret to the success of keeping her doors open. Married into the nightlife, Stith was somehow destined to find her own footing within it as she can now proudly say she’s had three different establishments. With twelve years in the business, she honestly feels this was the best decision she could have made. After walking out on a job she wasn’t very fond of, Stith says she stepped out on faith with the help of her husband, and has never looked back. Now as her empire grows alongside her husband and partner, she feels the best is yet to come.
Determined to make their dream work, Stith admitted she was nervous when she took the leap from a stable, 9 to 5 job. Never once thinking about being an entrepreneur and content with being an employee, Stith credited her husband to expanding her way of thinking. “I never thought about being an entrepreneur. I was content in working a 9 to 5, but meeting him made me want to try something different”, said Melanie. She goes on to tell me her secret to success and staying in business for as long as they have is, not making it about them. Stith says a lot of club owners fall prey to the allure of being a club owner and that’s where they fail. To her, when people take time out of their lives to spend their special moments at their establishments, it’s about them. She continues with telling me how she doesn’t get caught up in the “clickish” mentality a lot of people feel she should subject herself to. For her, being a club owner means catering to everyone. It’s a business first and when it comes to her business, she doesn’t separate you from me. Our conversation continued as we reminisced about the Loft and the memories we had of it first opening. We laughed when I asked what she thought about the transitions of her clubs and their environment. To her, she simply seemed unbothered by the critics and expressed how as people evolve, certain environments may not be appealing to them anymore. As a frequent dabbler in the night life, we chatted about what she felt St. Louis was missing as far as the nightlife. Now, she didn’t give any hints as to if this would be something she would explore, she did say how we need more intimate places like lounges, and like other cities somewhere that is less segregated.
Now I know the nightlife seems glamourous, but Stith admits it is definitely hard work. Between juggling two venues (Marquee & The Olive Bar), a staff, vendors, promoters, and customers; she also manages the tasks of being a wife and a mom. For some, working with your spouse would seem like a no-no, however, Stith admits they work well together and do a great job of keeping their roles straight when at work or home. Like most women, she bears strong shoulders as she grinds to keep her family and all the other moving parts working harmoniously. Stith wants success and with success she states without a doubt that she fights for everything she has. Her family, her business, and her marriage are of the upmost importance to her and so she fights for everything because all of it is worth fighting for. I asked her when she knew this was the best decision she could have made and she smiled stating, “the very first day we opened the Loft.” Stith laughs as she reflects on the rush she had that first day and how they had no idea what they were doing when they opened their doors. Not afraid to get her hands dirty, she has proven to be the consummate business owner. Knowing and understanding how each position works, Stith says she learned everything so they would never be forced to depend on people to operate their business. “That first day of opening the Loft we had no idea how to do anything and I swore we would never be like that again. So, I taught myself how to do everything.” Acknowledging she has no problem working alongside her staff, Stith agrees this is the reason why she and her staff work so well together.
Though married to the nightlife, I asked her if there was anything else she could imagine doing. Hesitant at first, Stith states if she could do anything else aside from being a club owner (which she loves by the way) it would be working with young girls. She lights up as she tells me how she truly enjoys being a mentor to her younger, female employees and treasures that aspect of her relationship with her daughter. As a hands-on business owner, she tells me how she is learning to give people the space to do their job, but still being a present figure throughout it. When asked about the future, she giggles about where they would be if her husband had his way. Feeling like this was the best decision she could have ever made, Stith wakes up every day appreciative of the day she turned in her two weeks notice. As new people cross her path and new endeavors arise, there is no telling what may be next for Melanie Stith.