Bimmers R Us: A St. Louis-area Auto Tradition
When Greg Stroud founded Bimmers R Us in 1991, he hoped to create a shop dedicated to providing “quality service by educated and informed technicians, positive customer relations, and prices lower than the dealers.”
Though he loves selling what he calls “pre-enjoyed” BMWs to his clients, his chief motivation has never been “moving metal,” an industry term for merely selling as much product as possible.
Instead, Stroud and his team at Bimmers R Us have concentrated on hand-curating a unique, high-end collection of both pre-owned and vintage BMW cars they feel proud to for their clients to drive.
General Manager Jack Zickrick says of the company’s aesthetic, “We buy what we like. We’ve built our business in a way that we don’t have to just ‘get rid of cars.’ Instead, we want to sell what we love.”
And they’ve been successful doing just that. With a sales and service center located at 3435 Kingshighway Boulevard in South St. Louis City, they continue to seek out what they believe to be the best cars for their customers. And with a staff of mechanics dedicated to keeping BMWs in top shape, they’ve remained busy and profitable.
Their success has led to a significant turning point in the company’s trajectory, allowing them to grow their business while innovatively serving BMW lovers.
Teaming Up to Buy Commercial Warehouse Space with Hilliker Corporation
Bimmers R Us purchased their current location at 3435 S Kingshighway in 2000 through a deal brokered by Ben Hilliker himself.
However, after years of successful business, they found themselves landlocked. Their property was always at capacity with new acquisitions and repairs. To keep up, they added two additional remote lots to store excess inventory.
This wasn’t ideal for a company that wanted to showcase everything they had available, and caused them to lose time, money, and opportunity as they shuttled vehicles between several different lots.
Stroud wanted to find a way to display all of the dealership’s BMWs in one place. Averaging between 70 and 90 cars at a time, he dreamt of a place to keep all his inventory under one roof, protected from the elements and visible to both customers and car lovers.
He also needed to find a space that would accommodate the sales side of his company. To find such a space, he called on Chris Taff of Hilliker Corporation.
Stroud and Zickrick, assisted by Taff, decided they needed around 10,000 square feet of showroom in addition to space for sales, a shop to service sales cars, and plenty of parking. Stroud and Zickrick didn’t want to rush the process, only wanting to see properties in St. Louis City that matched their high-end vintage car aesthetic.
Taff says, “To meet Bimmers R Us’s specific vision for the new location, I knew the space had to meet multiple operational needs and include certain design elements.” He scoured the market, focusing on St. Louis neighborhoods that would be a good fit for the Bimmers R Us brand. They toured close to a dozen buildings throughout South City, and the Grand Center Arts District.
However, both parties agreed the inventory available to them would not successfully display all that Bimmers R Us had to offer.
Three years into the search, Taff’s Hilliker colleague Patrick McKay listed a very special building with a storied history. Together, the two of them wondered if it might meet both the technical specifications and artistic sensibilities of Bimmers R Us.
A Historic Business on St. Louis’s Florist Row
The 2700 block of LaSalle in Downtown St. Louis has long been known as Florist Row. Beginning in the 1930s, several floral wholesalers started buying up the substantial warehouse spaces, creating an industry that services flower retailers throughout the St. Louis area to this day.
Eric Kuhlmann, part owner of LaSalle Wholesale Florist and owner of Kirkwood Florist, remembers Florist Row in its heyday in the 1950s and 60s. However, as the business changed, most of the floral wholesalers have moved out.
He said, “When I was a young man, there were nineteen different wholesale florists on that street. Now there are only two or three.”
However, he and his partners at LaSalle Wholesale Florist thrived well into the new millennium at their shop at 2744-2766 LaSalle Street. Their 25,000 square-foot warehouse had been a staple of Florist Row, but as several of the partners reached retirement age, they decided it was time to divest themselves of both the business and the property.
They called a trusted advisor at Jefferson Bank, asking him to recommend a quality commercial real estate broker. The banker recommended Patrick McKay of Hilliker Corporation. After an interview, Kuhlmann and his partners decided McKay was the right fit for their company.
An Innovative Plan
After Taff saw McKay’s listing, he wanted to show it to his Bimmers R Us clients immediately. Zickrick said, “It was a 92-year-old building with plenty of space for a showroom. We like its industrial feel because when you’re into cars, it’s kind of hard not to like the beams, the brick, the really heavy sliding doors, and concrete floors.”
Stroud and Zickrick imagined the warehouse itself as a “curated sales collection.” Part museum, part showroom, they saw it as a potential paradise and perennial attraction for car-lovers.
In addition to the warehouse, the property features a separate building for the sales staff, another building ideal for a garage, and plenty of parking. Stroud, who’s lived in loft spaces throughout the St. Louis area for years, found an added benefit: a space Stroud could convert into a loft just above his unique car collection.
Bimmers R Us, represented by Chris Taff, signed a contract to purchase the property for $675,000 only a few weeks after LaSalle Floral Wholesalers and Patrick McKay listed the properties.
Zickrick said of Taff, “What attracted us to Chris was his patience. He’d drop everything he had to meet us for an hour on many different occasions.”
Kuhlmann says, “With Patrick McKay and Hilliker, it was an enjoyable experience. Closing the deal was smooth as silk.”
The team at Bimmers R Us will keep its current location on Kingshighway for service, but they’re hard at work remodeling the LaSalle location, targeting a soft opening by the end of 2019.
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