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Adaptation

Adaptation

Written By Joel Emery

On January 29, 2021

The right property helps a local business stay light on its feet

presort

Presort Inc.
513 West Pearce Boulevard, Wentzville, Mo.

For the first decade of its existence, Presort Inc. thrived as a St. Louis-based mail consolidator, combining large volumes of mail from other companies in order to get a significant discount on postage from the U.S. Postal Service—savings Presort then passed down to their customers.

Then came the Internet. Seemingly overnight, the old metal mailbox was joined by the virtual inbox through which information could be sent and received in the time it took to click a mouse button. In order to seize the moment, Presort had to quickly rethink not only how they did business, but also where they operated.

“Electronic communication really changed our business,” says Presort owner and president Jeromy Fritz, who has been with the company since 1991. “Because the same volume of mail was no longer in St. Louis, we wanted to expand and set up consolidation facilities outside the city.”

513 West Pearce

As a result, Presort set up operations in places as far flung as Columbia, Cape Girardeau, and Wentzville. But when looking for buildings to house these satellite locations, Fritz and co-owner and vice president Mark Schaetzel knew better than to just look for space that could handle mail consolidation. They had learned valuable lessons from the Digital Revolution. They had already added printing, direct mail (delivering of advertising right to the mailbox), and product fulfillment (not unlike Amazon on a smaller scale) to their menu of services, and they knew that they would need room and flexibility to grow and adapt to whatever changes the future might hold. And to do that, they knew they’d need the right real estate broker.

That’s why, in early 2020, when Presort decided it wanted a new home for its Wentzville facility, Fritz called an old friend, a broker he’d known for more than 25 years. He called Jake Shepley at Hilliker Corporation.

Keeping in touch

When Shepley first met Fritz and Schaetzel, Presort was a young, successful company that was growing exponentially. It had started in 1991, as a five-person firm consolidating bulk mail out of a 1,500-square-foot basement in Soulard. Just two years later, they moved into a nearby 22,000-sqare-foot facility nearby. By 1996, having diversified into direct mail and printing, the business was again busting at the rivets of its St. Louis headquarters.

At the time, Shepley’s wife, Carol, was a journalist, and she had actually written a story about the up-and-coming Presort for a business magazine. Through that connection, Shepley was able to provide Fritz and Schaetzel with a 50,000-foot-building—more than twice its previous space—on Southwest Ave. in the heart of the city. After the transaction, the two parties went their separate trajectories, Presort blazing through the new digital frontier and Shepley becoming a commercial broker with Hilliker in 2001. But Shepley tried to check in periodically and even showed them some buildings through the years.

“It’s good to keep in touch,” says Shepley. “You let five or 10 years go by, and they’re off running with someone else. It’s good to call every now and then and catch up on their status, their potential real estate needs, and let them know what’s going on in the market. ‘Here’s something that sold here.’ ‘Here’s what’s available here.’ Then, eventually, something comes together.”

For this business relationship, “eventually” was early 2020—nearly a quarter century after their first deal. Presort had been relatively happy with the space they had been leasing in Wentzville since 2012, but the onset of COVID-19 and the ensuing economic fallout led them to want to buy a property. Ownership would allow them more financial flexibility, control, and security over their own operation there. And leasing out part of their space would also provide an additional revenue stream. One day Fritz was driving around Wentzville looking at potential properties when he saw Shepley’s name on a billboard. He decided to give his old friend a call.

Another change on the horizon

Over the next few weeks, Shepley showed Fritz a number of potential new homes for Presort. After talking with Fritz, the broker knew that the company needed access to the highways (particularly I-70), a dock, and enough parking. A building that already had tenants would be a plus. And after a couple properties didn’t quite fit Presort’s financial situation, Shepley showed them the low rise with green awning and a brick façade at 513 West Pearce Blvd.

The space had everything they needed, ample parking, a loading dock in the rear, and two paying tenants in a State Farm Insurance branch and Olive Tree Market Place, a boutique. Even after the sale was complete, Shepley stayed in touch to help Presort through the transition, offering advice about buying a building already occupied with tenants, which Fritz had never done before.

“Jake’s a trustworthy guy,” says Fritz. “Anytime you’re dealing with an acquisition like this, it’s important to do it with someone you trust. He knew what questions to ask. He’s been doing this for a while.”

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