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May 1, 2008
The Knoll Family has been a St Louis florist since before 1883 and the company is considered the oldest rose grower west of the Mississippi. the company uses the 1883 date as the year of its inception because as of that year there is proof positive of the florist’s existence in the form of an early photograph taken at a Hawken family funeral. The Hawkens were local gun manufacturers who became wealthy outfitting western pioneers with rifles.) John G Knoll, the original founder of the Knoll florist business came to America from Germany and settled in the Carondelet area. He grew produce and flowers then started a greenhouse business and opened his floral shop at 816 W Kansas (later changed to Holly Hills) and Idaho. John G’s son, John G., Jr., then continued the family business.
John G. Knoll and Sons grew American Beauty roses. Cut flowers were a local industry as it was not possible to ship them any distance before they died. American Beauty roses became quite famous here in St Louis and the Knolls grew them here until 1916. By this time flowers were being shipped from areas better suited for growing on refrigerated rail cars which carried Anheuser Busch beer from St Louis and returned with flowers for the St Louis market. During the Reagan era, the American Beauty rose became an official symbol of the United States of America.
John had three sons, John G. Jr., Herman and Walter Rudolph. Older sons John and Herman served in World War I while Walter Rudolph, still a child, stayed in St Louis. John and Herman returned from their military service to find that their father had passed away. John took his inheritance and opened greenhouses in Imperial, Missouri. This business continues today. Herman took over the Holly Hills shop, now at 800 Holly Hills, renaming it Herman Knoll Florist. Herman did a great job teaching his son, Marvin, and his younger brother, Walter Rudolph, everything they needed to know about the floral business and soon each opened their own separate shops.
The highway department took the area occupied by the flower shop Holly Hills and Idaho and it became the entrance ramp to the highway 55 expressway in 1960. The land occupied by the greenhouses became part of Carondelet Park after the First World War ended. In 1933 Walter opened his floral shop at 7806 Gravois Road. This was of course, during the great depression. One of his customers was August Busch, who would stop on his way to the brewery to purchase roses. In 1938 the shop moved to 4216 South Kingshighway, and then in 1949 to 5501 Chippewa (Highway 66) and then in January 2008 to 4620 Hampton Ave.
When Walter Rudolph Knoll passed away in 1959, his son Walter Robert and Walter Robert’s wife, Gail, ran the business. They expanded with flower departments in local supermarkets, (Bettendorfs ) and plant departments in the Venture discount stores, plus a full flower shop in the Famous Barr department store in downtown St Louis. Further sales were to Zaire’s along the east coast, as well as other commercial endeavors.
Meanwhile, in 1961 when the new Interstate 55 came through, Marvin opened his shop farther west on Highway 66 in Webster Groves at 8631 Watson Rd, naming it Herman Knoll Florist after his father. Marvin also continued his military career, eventually becoming a 2 star general in the U.S. Army, so his wife Lula helped tremendously at the shop. Marvin and Lula ran it until 1991 when Walter Knoll Florist purchased it. This shop remained open as Herman Knoll Florist until September 2006.
Walter Knoll Florist has had many innovations over the years. First rose growers west of the Mississippi River, Using refrigerated railroad cars to import cut flower products, Leased floral departments in Grocery stores and Hospitals, Lawn and Garden lots for mass merchents, computerized accounting in the 1970s, First florist to offer product on the Internet, First florist to use voIP technology to answer phones. First florist to offer on line delivery status lookup and email delivery notification. First florist to sell 5 foot tall epic roses. More information on Walter Knoll Florist iinovative data precessing, system integration and communications can be read by downloading the SAF story on Walter Knoll Florist Technology
Walter Knoll Florist has several innovative programs, here are a few.
Walter Knoll Florist in 1996 expanded and bought the next door buildings and expanded. Then after the facilties became too small moved headquarters from 5501 Chippewa St. to 8200 Exchange Way in 2000 and built an new design center. By the end of the year Walter Knoll Florist could no longer fit into the new design center and a search began for a net headquarters location. Knoll Plants Seeds of Growth Story.
The Walter Knoll Florist headquarters relocated to the St Louis Flower Market District (historic Flower Row on LaSalle Street) in 2002. In 2003 construction began on new state of the art coolers, receiving and production facilities. The new headquarters was completed in April of 2004. From this location they manage their neighborhood stores. This move was made possible by the support of the St Louis city government with support from Lewis Reed the Alderman and Mayor Frances Slay. The greenhouse commercial division is located in Arnold, Mo, a suburb of St Louis. From the greenhouse location they supply their clients with tropical plants and flowers. Walter Knoll Florist supplies and service 6 Flags theme parks and other St Louis businesses maintaining their live plants. In 2005 Walter Knoll Flroist spearheaded a new look for the St Louis Floral Market.
In January of 2006 Watler Knoll Florist bought Kablooms of Tesson Ferry and opned a new store at 9926 Kennerly Rd.
In October of 2007, Nettie’s Flower Garden merged with Walter Knoll Florist. This combination of two Saint Louis floral icons will create an even brighter future for a successful company in the St Louis floral trade. 100+ employees look forward to the next millennium and beyond.
Walter Robert and Gail Knoll are still working in 2007, but their three sons, Walter, Charles and David as well as their respective wives, are in charge of the Walter Knoll Florist business today. This family business continues to be lovingly tended and nurtured and it continues to produce winners. The business now has 8 retail locations and 2 wholesale facilities and also does well with their Internet business website www.wkf.com.