A ST. LOUIS FIXTURE
To say that we've been at it for well over a century is no exaggeration. WKF can trace its roots back to the mid-1800s, when the first Knoll left Düsseldorf, Germany and emigrated to the U.S., landing in Ohio. We were vegetable growers, green thumbs from the start. Eventually, the Knolls made their way to St. Louis. It felt just like home, with its large German population and the Mississippi River Valley a near doppelgänger of the Rhine.
In 1870, we gave up growing vegetables in favor of flowers. An 1883 photograph shows a funeral we decorated, and it seems as good a date as any to trace our official start. John Knoll was the one who opened the original business, supported in his efforts by three sons: John Jr., Herman, and young Walter, who was 16 years younger than Herman. When John Sr. fell off a greenhouse and died, the business passed to John Jr. and Herman. It became John Knoll Florist, but it wouldn't be the only Knoll Florist for long.
When young Walter was in his 20s, he began working wholesale in downtown St. Louis until he was laid off during the Depression. Undeterred, Walter started his own florist, naming it after himself. Meanwhile, the old John Knoll Florist became Herman Knoll Florist.
Walter's son inherited WKF in the 1960s, after Walter passed away. Throughout the next few decades, it grew to be extremely successful, and the next generation of Knolls - the ones at the helm today - took over.
With them came an infusion of new ideas and especially the introduction of technology, with WKF becoming the first florist to sell flowers on the internet. A wholesale division was born, which allowed the company to bring in its own flowers directly. And in 1990, WKF bought the original family business from their relative, Herman.
Now in its 5th and 6th generations of the business, the WKF brand is the exception to the rule: a successful, tech-savvy flower business that dominates its market but is also filled with and run by family, including brothers Walter, Chuck, and David leading the way.