Naked Boot and Shoe Brings Handmade Shoes to Chesterfield, MO

Bringing High-Quality Shoes Directly to Customers

Jim Ferguson has spent his career in the shoe manufacturing business. Relying on years of experience, he knows what it takes to create high-quality handmade leather shoes.

He also knows what goes into the price of those shoes: wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. He and his partner, Bob Weber, had an idea to cut out the middlemen to bring high-quality leather shoes directly to the St. Louis area.

Together, they established Naked Boot and Shoe, a St. Louis-based handmade shoe line and retail store.

They did so by first establishing a relationship with Pakistan-based Tannery KTM Leather, a company that could use the all-natural process Ferguson believes would create the highest quality leather in an environmentally friendly manner.

Weber told the Webster-Kirkwood Times, “Because of our partnership with KTM Leather, we own and control our entire supply chain. Without the middle-man, we are able to pass our cost savings directly back to the customer.”

Additionally, they brought in senior merchandiser and fashion designer Kelly Weber (also Bob Weber’s niece) to help create custom designs for Naked Boot and Shoe. Only twenty-two, her work is already garnering attention from renowned designer Nicole Miller.

The partners opened their first location in Webster Groves at 8157 Big Bend and found it resonated with customers immediately.

Building on that momentum, they decided it was time to open a second location, this time in Chesterfield, MO. To find the right retail space for rental, Mr. Ferguson called on commercial real estate brokers Rebecca Thessen and Jeff Altvater at Hilliker Corporation.

Looking for the Perfect Fit in Chesterfield

The opportunity in Chesterfield was clear. With lots of shopping in the area and a clientele used to a high-end experience, there were no handmade shoe boutiques in the area. Naked Boot and Shoe could fill that need but first had to find a small retail space for rental in Chesterfield, MO with complimentary businesses nearby.

At the same time, Thessen and Altvater’s clients at 1590 Clarkson Road had an opening. Owned by Southern Real Estate and Financial Co., the building’s anchor tenants are Talbot’s and Chico’s, with a nearby nail salon and yoga studio. The open space, once occupied by a gourmet cupcake shop, had been vacant over a year.

Ferguson loved the space and decided to pursue it.

Cutting Out the Middleman

Thessen commented that representing both the tenant and the landlord made for a smoother negotiation process.

In such circumstances, she says, “I know the expectations of both the tenant and the landlord,” and that not going through a third party made the process “more time-efficient. I know them. I know what they like, and I know what they don’t like.”

Thessen said of Ferguson, “Jim is a great guy to work with, very efficient, very on top of things. He’s familiar with the business.”

Additionally, Thessen and Alvater were excited to have a retail solution already lined up for their client, an opportunity afforded them by being part of the Hilliker team.

 The Right “Next Step”

Southern Real Estate’s John Roberts says, “It’s exciting to have [Naked Boot and Shoe] in the Chesterfield area,” believing placing them near Chico’s and Talbot’s will benefit all three stores, adding to the success of the retail center.

Positioned for expansion, Ferguson and Weber are bringing their vision for high-quality handmade shoes to West County. Naked Boot and Shoe’s second location at 1590 Clarkson Road is set to open March 15, 2019.

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St. Louis Business Purchases and Rehabs South County Retail Plaza

Family-run Fire Truck Business Set to Rehab South County Retail Plaza

From Childhood Dream to Thriving Business

Commercial Real Estate St. LouisBill Franz grew up loving fire trucks. And in 1986, he saw an ad in the paper that changed his life.

It had a phone number and a simple message: “Sell fire trucks.” Bill was in. He called the number and went to work for a company out of Chicago doing just that.

Soon, he and his wife, Norma, decided to start their own firetruck sales company out of their house. It’s grown into Sentinel Emergency Solutions, a thriving family business with two locations in the St. Louis area: one in Arnold, one in Freeburg, IL.

Sentinel sells, repairs, and customizes fire engines for municipalities throughout Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. They also provide the life-saving boots, helmets, gear and breathing apparatuses firefighters use every day.

In 2007, Bill’s son Brian Franz became a partner in the business, and several members of the family are also heavily involved.

With a lease on their Freeburg, IL, location set to expire, Sentinel was ready to buy commercial property in the St. Louis area, one that would bring their two sites together. They also wanted room to grow, looking toward the future.

For that, a mutual business advisor referred them to Brendan O’Brien of Hilliker Corporation.

A Belief in Serving Communities

Bill and Brian Franz hoped to find a piece of raw land where they could build a structure that would suit the needs of their unique business model: bays for repair and customization, offices, a showroom, and a large lot.

They knew they needed to stay near I-255 for the sake of their clients. Brian said, “There are gravel floors in some southern Illinois fire departments. They have Bingo nights to pay for gas.” Neither Bill nor Brian wanted to ask these valuable customers to drive any farther than they needed to.

However, there was little raw land or other industrial buildings that would suit their needs. With the help of O’Brien and their partners at Doering Engineering, they saw an opportunity.

Franview Plaza, a commercial retail space in unincorporated St. Louis County and just off Telegraph Road, looked like it might meet their needs. An L-shaped retail strip with several tenants, the largest space had gone unfilled for seven years. Having been initially occupied by an A&P grocery store, it had many tenants over the years but was now sitting vacant.

As the demographics of the location had changed, there were few obvious solutions for new tenants. The owners, Franview Partners, were ready to divest themselves of the property and looking for the right match. They needed someone who would take care of the building’s current tenants and had a plan for the grocery-store-sized space.

Incredibly, Franview Partners were represented by Hilliker’s Will Aschinger, so O’Brien and Aschinger went to work on their clients’ behalf, looking not only to benefit the two businesses but also the community.

An Unexpected Solution: St. Louis Commercial Retail Space

St. Louis Commercial Real Estate Retail

Bill and Brian knew the benefits of purchasing already-developed land: that drainage, grading, and other pieces of infrastructure were already in place.

The Franzes hadn’t considered taking on tenants, but they immediately saw the potential. Tenants meant income, and though they saw how much work the building needed, they were up for the challenge.

As for the old grocery store space, O’Brien came upon a highly creative solution. He suggested Sentinel adapt this now obsolete retail center, recommending they tear it down and construct their ideal building from scratch.

In total, Sentinel would acquire 55,000 square feet of St. Louis-area commercial property but only keep 20,000. The rest would be torn down and rebuilt into a beautiful, state-of-the-art, 30,000-square-foot facility.

Everyone was on board.

Aschinger and O’Brien spent many hours guiding their clients through the process of securing zoning approvals from the county. In the end, Sentinel’s real estate investment arm, LJC Commercial (owned by Brian & Maria Franz), purchased 2828-2830 Telegraph Road in South St. Louis County for $1,500,000.

Businesses Working Together for their Community

Mehlville School DistrictJim Roberts, of the Franview Partnership, was happy to see his company’s investment getting a new life. He said, “The center needed to be refurbished … It was time to make changes, but it’s hard to find credit-worthy tenants, and we wanted to do something positive for the neighborhood.”

Roberts sees Sentinel’s plans for the commercial property as a way to “create new enthusiasm” in the region, hoping the upgrade will also mean more revenue for the Mehlville School District in particular.

Brian Franz was ecstatic with Hilliker’s work on the project. He said he had been searching for a broker who would “communicate with me and really be on our team. We needed somebody who would kind of steer us down the path. Brendan was in constant communication with me. And having him and Will in the same office was a real help to us as well.”

With plans drawn by Dial Architects, work is underway. Sentinel plans to break ground in the spring of 2019 and move in by January 1, 2020.

St. Louis Business JournalBut wait – there’s more! Read Here to find out what the St. Louis Business Journal had to share about this new development!

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St. Louis Builder Finds New Headquarters and Showroom in Fenton

Mahn Custom Homes and Renovations Purchase New Headquarters, Adding Showroom, in Fenton

Creating a Personalized Experience

Mike MahnIn 1998, Mike Mahn saw an opening in the construction industry. As someone who believed in quality work and service, he noticed too many contractors and builders settled for cookie-cutter solutions and unreliable timelines.

In response, he founded Mahn Custom Homes to work on custom homes, historic renovations, home remodels, and light commercial projects. He’s grown the firm into a multi-million-dollar operation with over fifty employees, consultants, and suppliers.

The company continues to grow, and faster than ever. In October 2018, Mahn brought on five new full-time employees, putting their office space at a premium. Warehouse was limited as well, overflowing with materials for upcoming projects.

Concurrently, Mahn had a desire to take the company’s design services to a higher level. He wanted space to showcase many of the options available to clients.

Recognizing the company needed a new place to call home, Mahn called on Will Aschinger of Hilliker Corporation. Together, they started to look for something to meet all of Mahn Custom Home and Renovation’s needs.

Finding Commercial Warehouse, Office, and Showroom Space in St. Louis

Commercial Property St. LouisAschinger and Mahn had specific criteria for their building.

First, they needed about 3000 feet of St. Louis-area commercial office space along with 2000 feet of commercial warehouse space. They also needed to be as close as possible to their original Kirkwood location, stay close to a major intersection, and be convenient for their current employees to commute to and their customers to find.

Additionally, Mahn focused his business model on offering the highest possible levels of customer service. Preferring to call his clients members of his family, he’s always looking for ways to create a second-to-none experience them.

As they looked for a new space, Mahn decided to search exclusively for buildings with a showroom, adding a higher level of service than ever before.

Aschinger brought all of his expertise to the project, knowing that such a building would be hard to find. After assessing commercial warehouse and office spaces throughout the St. Louis area, concentrating near Kirkwood, the two found success in nearby Fenton.

A Custom-Made Solution

Mercury Communications, which had just been purchased by Keeley companies, no longer needed their building at 1710 Larkin Williams. They were ready to divest themselves of the property, vacate their space, and find a new landlord for the tenants in the rest of the building.

It met all of Mahn’s requirements, including office space, warehouse space, and a showroom. Already zoned for light industrial use, it sits close to the intersection of Highways I-44 and I-270 on a highly visible corner.

Moreover, it met one of Mahn’s wish-list requirements: tenants. Tenants would provide cash flow from the beginning while allowing the company to have a building they could grow into over time.

Though the building was built in 1970, it had been completely renovated in 2011 and was ready for its new owners to customize immediately.

In the end, Aschinger brokered a deal for Mahn Custom Homes and Renovations to buy 1710 Larkin Williams from Mercury Communications for $1,225,000.

The new building positions Mahn to continue to expand their current operations while having a much wider range of offerings available to their customers. The showroom’s grand opening will take place on Sunday, May 5.

St. Louis Business JournalBut wait, there is more – read HERE to find out what the St. Louis Business Journal had to say about this development!

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Quality Auto STL, moves to Westport with help from Hilliker Corp.

Quality Auto STL, Built on Foundation of Helping Veterans, Finds Commercial Rental Space in Westport

A Dedication to Excellence

David Marks founded Quality Auto STL in 2010. Having worked in the industry since 1999, he jokes he bought a “garage with a house in front of it” to build a business that has gone from a part-time venture to a full-time, profitable career—one set for expansion.

In addition to auto repair, Marks has his dealer’s license. He seeks out and repairs used cars on behalf of clients who trust his knowledge and skill.

From the beginning, he decided to use these skills to give back to veterans, of which his dad is one.

Supporting VeteransMarks volunteers his time with The American Legion’s Vehicle Donation Program. He repairs donated vehicles and, using his dealer’s license, brings them to auction. As a representative of The American Legion, he sells them for a profit that goes to helping veterans, among the organization’s other programs.

It’s work he’s proud of.

Meanwhile, Quality Auto STL has prospered. By 2018, Marks knew he was ready to find commercial rental space in the St. Louis area. For this, he chose Frank Yocum of Hilliker Corporation.

An Opportunity for Expansion

As Marks and Yocum lined out the opportunities for Quality Auto STL, the challenges were immediately apparent.

First, they knew they needed a relatively small St. Louis-area commercial rental space near his current location on Lackland, eliminating several options.

Additionally, since Marks wanted to keep operating as a dealer, they concentrated their search on Maryland Heights, the only nearby municipality that would allow for an auto repair shop to also sell used cars.

The next hurdle was finding someone who believed Quality Auto STL could operate a clean and organized business on their property. Marks came with a track record of taking care of his current location, but he and Yocum would have to convince potential landlords of this.

After visiting and evaluating more than seven locations, Yocum found a nearly 2700-square-foot commercial rental space in the Westport area of St. Louis that was clearly the ideal choice for Marks’s long-term success.

Negotiating a Win-Win

Negotiating Commercial LeaseMad Pak, LLC, owns the building at 11457 Schenk Road. It had commercial rental space opening up that was the right size for Quality Auto STL—large enough to eventually bring on more staff, but small enough to meet its current needs.

The broker for the building knew Yocum and Hilliker Corporation for its second-to-none reputation, lending credibility to Marks’s fledgling enterprise. Mad Pak and Quality Auto STL were able to strike a deal for a 5-year lease.

With the building chosen, Yocum and Marks went to work getting the property zoned for an auto repair shop. The two attended hearings together and were able to take care of the zoning requirements quickly and efficiently.

Poised for Future Progress

commercial rental spaceNow under construction, the new building in Westport is perfect for Quality Auto STL to continue its growth and success. Marks says he enjoyed working with Yocum, having benefited from his integrity and experience.

Marks said of Yocum, “If he says he’s going to handle it, it gets done.” Also, when Yocum needed Marks to do something, it was clear and actionable, making it easy for Marks to do his part.

Yocum enjoyed Marks’s enthusiasm and ambition, saying the two would remain friends for years to come.

Set to move in on March 21, Marks plans to continue his work for the American Legion and hopes to use the new building to grow his business and keep helping others.

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