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The Cost of Living Diaries: St. Joseph, Missouri

A local dishes on fun things to do and where to find a great cup of coffee (or four).

By Lindsey Hyde on November 1, 2022

An eclectic city bustling with arts and culture, history, fun nightlife, outdoor recreation options, quaint shops and more, St. Joseph, Missouri, is the envy of communities large and small. Here, locals love their laid-back yet fulfilling lifestyle, and visitors are often swayed to become residents themselves.

Jess Mengel

To learn more about this beautiful region and all it has to offer, we sat down with Jess Mengel, who grew up in St. Joseph and is now raising her family here. While she’s lived in other communities — she moved to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in 2010 for college and Ashland, Oregon, in 2018 for her husband’s career — she’s always made her way back home.

Today, Mengel and her husband live and work full time in St. Joseph with their two daughters.

Why did you decide to move back to St. Joseph?

Our family. My husband and I have two daughters. With the pandemic, we really weren’t able to travel as much as we wanted to and really be involved with our family as much as we wanted to. When you live 27 hours away and then a pandemic hits, there are really not a lot of easy ways to come back home for holidays and things like that. It was our priority to come back and raise our children around their family.

How would you describe St. Joseph?

I’d probably refer to our town as comfortable. There are a lot of fun things to do. There are a lot of families that have just been here forever. Even though we have a population of about 76,000, somehow you know somebody through somebody. There’s like that seven degrees of separation kind of thing — it’s very easy to know everyone in this town.

What do you love about living in this region?

We just love the downtown area. Before we moved to Oregon, my husband and I were actually living in a loft downtown, and we just really liked that culture. And I think St. Joe has done a really good job in the last five years of really catering to young families. We’ve got disc golf courses now and this River Bluff biking trail, just really giving some opportunities for entertainment to younger folks. I think that’s really important to us, and so we’re just really excited for all the things to do here.

What other kinds of outdoor recreation does the area offer? 

We have a really good parkway system for cycling or running. Through the summer months, there are some outdoor concerts that are free to the public, really fun, family friendly. There’s Parties on the Parkway, which is done in partnership through the city of St. Joseph and the Chamber of Commerce, and there’s the Sounds of Summer and other free concerts downtown at Coleman Hawkins Park.

What’s your favorite coffee shop in the area, and how much is your go-to drink?

We have some really cool coffee shops in town, and I’ve been to most of them. I really like Mokaska Coffee Company. Hazel’s Coffee (& Roasting Company) is a fun one. There’s a new coffee shop in town called Reverie Coffee Roasters, and it’s really cool what they’ve done with that space. And Pronto Cafe — I usually drink their London Fogs. (One) would be about $5 or $6. 

What is housing like in the area?

We currently rent. We have a three-bedroom house, and we pay around $1,000 a month for that, which I think is really reasonable. We live in a really nice neighborhood, which I like, especially for having kids. We don’t have a lot of traffic. We have a good size backyard. It’s been fun. We like the renting lifestyle versus homebuying at this point.

But homebuying is very affordable here compared to other places. Many people are shocked to see the value we have here.

This article was sponsored by the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce.

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