Walter Knoll Florist

Walter Knoll Florist

Posted by wkf on July 5, 2002 Activities Growth

Knoll Plants Seeds of Growth for Florist Row

Knoll plants seeds for growth on Flower Row St. Louis Business Journal – July 5, 2002 by Heather Cole
Walter Knoll Florists Inc. is seeking tax increment financing to help with a proposed $1 million redevelopment of seven buildings that had housed the failed St. Louis Wholesale Plant Co. The buildings, totaling nearly 70,000 square feet and now owned by Southern Commercial Bank, are in the city’s flower district, in the 2700 block of LaSalle Street. Walter Knoll is leasing the buildings from the bank until January, with an option to buy. Officials at Walter Knoll and the bank declined to discuss terms of the lease or a possible sale price for the buildings. The florist started business at the location May 20. Offices, a call center, a plant maintenance division, a warehouse and design center would be moved from other Walter Knoll locations and a new store would open on the block under the redevelopment proposal. A possible TIF amount hasn’t been determined, said Walter Knoll III, 42, vice president of marketing and information at the 119-year-old florist company. TIF is apublic subsidy that allows developers to use 100 percent of the increase in real estate taxes and 50 percent of the local sales taxes generated by their new projects to defray certain development and construction costs. Walter Knoll Florists is a family owned company. Walter Knoll, Jr works on special projects for the company. His wife, Gail Knoll, is president, and their three sons, Walter III, 42, Chuck, 40, and David, 37, operate the florist. The three sons’ wives also work in the business. Knoll declined to release revenue for the privately held company, but said the florist has about 22 percent of the local flower market and has been averaging 30 percent growth each year. This year, growth had slowed to about 19 percent, he said. The company has seven stores throughout the area, including the new one on LaSalle. It also operates a warehouse and greenhouse in Arnold, a receiving facility and call center in Webster Groves, and an office in the 5500 block of Chippewa Street. The company is one of the largest florist businesses in St. Louis, said Gail Knoll. Schnucks Flowers and Gifts and Dierbergs Florist & Gifts also are among the largest flower businesses, she said. The redevelopment will consolidate operations and give the company added space as it expands, Knoll said. As many as 120 employees could be working in the Walter Knoll facilities in Flower Row by next year, he said. Walter Knoll already has brought 25 to 30 employees to the new location, with others to arrive in the fall for a total of 93, if a TIF is approved, Knoll said. The proposal calls for: The demolition of a greenhouse behind and to the north of 2757 LaSalle to make way for a 6,000-square-foot office building; The renovation of a second greenhouse in the 1000 block of Josephine into a drive-through undercover loading pavilion that could accommodate 10 trucks; The renovation, including installation of a cooler, of two linked buildings, 2765 LaSalle, with a total of 17,000 square feet for a design area and a store that would offer discounted flowers; The conversion of a building at 2751 LaSalle into an office with a conference room. Another building at 2745 LaSalle will be used for storage and a greenhouse in the 1000 block of California will be used for the living plants sold at the stores and a lawn and garden center. Walter Knoll’s Webster Groves’s support facility will close under the redevelopment plan, Walter Knoll said. The live plant and “hard stock” vases and other items will be taken from Arnold, and the warehouse there converted into a greenhouse. Since sales tax for florists is based on the city in which the order is taken, the sales tax for Walter Knoll orders would go to the city of saint louis instead of city of Webster Groves, he said. The florist still is liquidating stock left by the failed St. Louis Wholesale Plant, which closed April 15, with prices on merchandise from 70 percent to 90 percent off. A bankruptcy case for St. Louis Wholesale filed November 2001 was dismissed March 22 after an agreement was reached to surrender the company’s property to the bank, the business’ only secured creditor, said Spencer Desai, an attorney for St. Louis Wholesale. According to court filings, the more than 100-year-old St. Louis Wholesale and companion business Troske Redevelopment, owed the bank $853,312. Both companies owed 16 creditors, including suppliers, attorneys and transport services, a total of $944,336. Internal problems and competition in the flower market led to the demise of the company, said Jim Fredericks, an attorney for Mary Ann and Edward Troske, former owners of both companies. Mary Ann Troske’s parents had owned St. Louis Wholesale before Mary Ann and Edward Troske took it over in the 1960s. hcole@bizjournals.com

The Knoll Family 

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