Category Archives: News

The Minifig Shop goes from online store to brick and mortar retail

Building a Small Business Brick by Brick

Mike Atwood is skilled at building things. When he was a kid, he’d work up to 70 hours a week in his dad’s engine repair shop. As an adult, his building skills shine through a different medium — a successful full-time career as a software engineer.

Mike’s son, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), has always loved building things, too. Like other children with ASD, LEGO® bricks became a considerable part of his developmental process.

As a result, Mike and his wife Kelly Atwood began buying used LEGOs in bulk for their son. They learned how to find bargains online, then started making connections with dealers throughout the country.

As their son outgrew his fascination with the toys, Mike and Kelly began listing them for sale online. They found they could sell used LEGOs at a profit and began to build a lucrative side business. The extra money was helpful for the growing family, allowing Kelly to stay home to raise their children.

Soon, the couple had developed a specialty in collecting and selling minifigures, the tiny block-like figurines which have grown considerably in popularity in recent years. Though LEGOs have been around since the 1950s, they introduced “minifigs” in 1978 and have since produced over a billion. They’re incredibly collectible. Both children and “Adult Fans Of LEGOs” (AFOL) buy, sell, and trade them without their original sets.

Before the Atwoods knew it, they needed to lease 1000 square feet of warehouse space just to keep up with saleable inventory, which they were turning around quickly.

Searching for Retail Space in the St. Louis Area

By the beginning of 2019, The Minifig Shop — the Atwood’s online retail store — was out of room. They had so packed their warehouse with LEGOs that Mike, Kelly, and nephew Bob Atwood (whom they brought on as a partner) barely had room to work.

The Minifig Shop was ready for an upgrade, and they believed it could be in the form of a retail location. Mike had always dreamed of having a brick-and-mortar shop the way his dad did. Bob, who has a background in retail sales, was looking for a new challenge.

The three partners were all on board: Mike and Bob began looking for a retail space for lease where they could display the Minifigs and share them in-person with customers.

Jeffrey J. AltvaterThe store would be an experience for young families, featuring huge LEGO displays and places to play. That way, The Minifig Shop wouldn’t have to compete with box stores or online retailers.

To make their vision a reality, however, they needed a highly-visible storefront in a walkable area — one that would include other “draws” for their target market. Kirkwood would be ideal, but they weren’t sure it would be in their price range.

With a desire to find something in mid-St. Louis County, they were open to property as far west as Maryland Heights and as far east as Webster Groves. But after a few weeks of browsing listings on their own, a former coworker (and electrical contractor) referred Mike to Jeff Altvater of Hilliker Corporation.

A Great Place for Families

Using a combination of methods, Altvater quickly found approximately 20 available storefronts that fit within Mike and Bob’s parameters. Before long, they had narrowed their search to about eight properties — all of them with triple-net (NNN) leases.

However, the Atwoods quickly focused on 200 South Kirkwood Road. It’s a walkable distance from the Kirkwood Farmer’s Market, historic train station, and The Magic House. The building itself features popular anchor tenants Kaldi’s, Bar Louie, and Crushed Red.

Additionally, Kirkwood is a great place for retail businesses during Halloween and Christmas, when neighborhood events attract thousands of young families to Kirkwood Road. And when Alvater presented the Atwoods with a favorable report from a traffic pattern analysis, they were sold.

It was everything they were looking for.

Financially, it fell on the high side of their budget. However, Altvater negotiated five months of free rent so the Atwoods could remodel the store. The two main tasks were:

  • Installing the display cases (handled by Jeff Herzog of Fixture Contracting);
  • Putting together a series of jaw-dropping LEGO sculptures for customers to view.

Mike enjoyed working with Altvater, saying, “Jeff’s a really good guy — a straight-shooter. He was very helpful through the process.”

Mike, Kelly, and Bob set a goal of having the shop completed and opened for Kirkwood’s yearly Halloween walk — a goal which they met.

The finished store is an incredible place for fans of LEGOs. Customers can buy used bricks in bulk (they keep between two and three thousand pounds at all times). They can also choose from 20,000 Minifigures on display, many for $3 or less.

What’s next for your business?

As your business grows, your goals and method of doing business will mature as well. As new opportunities arise and new dreams take shape, Hilliker Corporation develops alongside you. We help entrepreneurs like you take advantage of the best the real estate market has to offer.

If you’re in a time of growth or change, let Hilliker Corporation come alongside you and guide you through your next real estate transaction. Contact Jeff Altvater and get started finding retail, industrial, warehouse, office, or institutional space for you and your business.

West County church building becomes new home for St. Louis’s Masons

A Fraternity Dedicated to Tradition and Service

John Vollmann is a third-generation St. Louis Freemason. When he first became involved in 1992, he was excited by the organization’s local history. A cursory review of St. Louis’s Masons brings up a broad range of well-known names:

  • Merriweather Lewis
  • William Clark
  • Charles Lindbergh
  • Harry S. Truman
  • Ernest Borgnine

Vollmann, now president of the St. Louis Masonic Temple Association, took pride in helping to care for the landmark building that served as the Masons regional home since 1926. The building at 3681 Lindell housed several historic artifacts as well, including beautiful marble features, handcrafted Emil Frei windows, and papers from President Truman.

The Masonic Temple serves as a meeting space for several local Masonic organizations. During the 1920s, there were 50 to 70 such groups. Over time, however, many of these groups have merged and there are fewer than 40. At 386,000 square feet, the Temple was far too large for their current needs.

Additionally, over the years, Masons who met at the temple had moved both south and west of the city. Their current location was no longer convenient to their membership.

The building itself required constant maintenance and updates. The financial strain of the work put them in direct conflict with their mission, which includes “social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy.”

They were looking for a way to stop sinking money into an old building and increase their ability to give back. As beautiful as the structure is — and as intertwined with the organization’s history as it had become — it was no longer meeting the needs of the region’s Masons.

Scott E. MartinIn 2016, Vollmann enlisted the help of Scott Martin of Hilliker Corporation, who brokered the sale of the building for $3.2 million to Brandonview LLC.

Martin was able to negotiate a rentback agreement from Brandonview for a short time. However, they would eventually need to move all of their artifacts into storage and find alternative ways to meet.

Together, Vollmann and Martin went looking for a new Temple for St. Louis’s Masons, not wanting their membership to be without a home for long.

The Search for an Institutional Building in West St. Louis County

Though the Masons no longer needed a building quite as large as their old one, they still required a building with approximately 30,000 square feet of space. The layout had to include four main rooms:

  • A meeting room for individual Masonic bodies with ceilings at least 15-feet high and no columns.
  • A ceremonial room for the Ascalon Commandery with ceilings at least 25-feet high and no columns. (The walls needed enough space to install their stained-glass windows.)
  • A dining hall.
  • A collections room (to display their collection of artifacts).

As Martin and Vollmann toured available buildings, they were disappointed over and over again. Warehouses, which had tall ceilings and lots of open space, would always have columns that would require too much expense to remove.

Offices, though they may have the non-columned horizontal room, would not meet their height requirements.

There was another difficulty for the Masons. Their old building was beautiful and grandiose. The Temple needed a touch of the dramatic to completely serve the needs of the organization well. They hoped to find something that could lend itself to their sense of history and pageantry.

Finding a St. Louis Area Church Building for Sale

After three years of searching, Vollmann was driving down Clayton Road in Clarkson Valley. He was surprised to see a sizeable former church for sale. Constructed as Ellisville United Methodist, the building had been the home of Midwest Music and Electronic Services for several years and was not registered with commercial real estate data bases.

No longer optimized as a church, the building was divided into a showroom, a concert hall, and classrooms. However, the building featured a former chapel and former sanctuary that met the Mason’s requirements: large, high-ceilinged rooms with no columns.

Though the building was by no means perfect, Vollmann and his fellow Masons saw possibilities. Since it is cut up for classrooms, many rooms would have to be combined to make it work. Significant renovations would be required, but they believed they could deliver all updates and changes to the building on-budget.

At just under 30,000 square feet, the new building is the right size for the needs of the organization. The original asking price was $1,795,000.00.

Martin learned that a negotiated sale price would require the approval of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and advised the Masonic Lodge Temple Association through the negotiation process. The contract provided multiple purchaser contingencies protecting the Masons.

Upon completion of due diligence, Martin and the Masonic Lodge Temple Association further negotiated with the seller’s broker (TB Realty and Development) for an ultimate sale price of just over $1.5 Million.

The Deal

  • Buyer: Masonic Temple Association of St. Louis, represented by Scott Martin of Hilliker Corporation
  • Seller: Midwest Music Electronic Services, Inc., represented by TB Realty and Development
  • Address: 15977 Clayton Road in Clarkson Valley
  • Sale Price: $1,555,000.00
  • Square Footage: 27,416 square foot building on 3.89 acres

Vollmann enjoyed his partnership with Martin throughout their search. “We gave Scott a tall order, but he knows his business. Very knowledgeable.”

The Masonic Temple Association board members are in the final stages of choosing contractors and architects. The building will not be ready for ceremonies for quite some time. But when it is, it will contain all the marble features, historical artifacts, and Emil Frei stained glass windows once housed in the former building.

Additionally, some of the organization’s historical artifacts will be on display and viewable by members of the public.

In the end, a better location and lower maintenance cost will provide St. Louis’s Masons the ability to achieve their desired goals for the benefit of their members and the community.

Working Together for the Welfare of Our Region

When St. Louis institutions—both religious and secular—need to find new real estate, they deserve an advocate who will fight for their needs. Their requirements may or may not be the same as the typical business, office, or manufacturer. However, they are just as vital to the ongoing health of our community.

If you represent:

  • A non-profit
  • Synagogue
  • Mosque
  • Church
  • Health care organization
  • Or school …

… you can call Hilliker. We respect who you are and will work with you to find the right place for you and those you serve.

Get in touch with a broker today.

Trimarc Metals purchases industrial warehouse in North St. Louis County

A Kootman Family Legacy

Marc Kootman has spent his career in the scrap-metal business, and it’s a family affair. His grandfather worked in scrap metal, as did his father.

Kootman began by working as a scrap-metal broker for an Atlanta firm, but soon joined his father’s North St. Louis company. In 1988, he and his brother Mike Kootman formed their own firm, a strong partnership that lasted twenty-five years.

Here’s how businesses like Kootman’s work.

First, employees collect scrap metal from clients, mostly in manufacturing. Then, they separate the material by kind:

Ferrous metals, like steel, contain iron. They’re sturdy but rust when exposed to the elements for long periods.

Non-ferrous metals—like aluminum, copper, and lead—which are non-magnetic, less corrosive, and more valuable.

Next, they ship it to a recycler. The recycler melts it down, purifies it, and forms it into sheets, blocks, or other usable forms.

Finally, they sell the now usable metal back to manufacturers, saving them time and money in the process.

Marc always hoped his three children — Jason, Jonathan, and Katie Kootman — would have an interest in starting a company with him. However, Marc had a prerequisite. He wanted them each to work for a boss that “wasn’t their father” for at least two years.

By 2016, all three of his now adult children had gained experience in other fields. They agreed to begin working together as Trimarc Metals for a one-year trial.

Marc said to them, “We can proceed if all of you remain committed to making the company more profitable and can work together as a team, we can continue to grow our own business.”

Their clients, concentrated mostly in the St. Louis metro area, range from mom and pop shops to Fortune 500 companies.

Working out of a space shared with another recycler, Trimarc started growing immediately. Kootman said, “My kids were really 100% committed. That’s what I wanted to see. I wanted proof they were going to be committed and that this business would have a future.”

North St. Louis Industrial Warehouse Space for Purchase

H. Meade Summers, IIIFrom the beginning, Kootman started looking to purchase industrial warehouse space to store and process Trimarc’s inventory. His attorneys at Lathrop Gage recommended he enlist the help of Hilliker Corporation’s President, Meade Summers.

First, Summers got to know Trimarc’s needs. The business model relies on a lot of space for both outdoor and indoor storage.

Outside, Trimarc keeps trucks, cranes, front-loaders, and corrosion-resistant non-ferrous metals. Inside, they sort and store their ferrous metals. They also needed a small portion of the building dedicated to office space.

Kootman estimated the company needed 80,000 square feet of warehouse and office space combined with several acres of outdoor storage to run the business properly.

They also hoped to stay near their current location in right around the corner in St. Louis County. Close to I-270, I-170, and I-70, they would maintain easy access to clients throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Summers and Kootman looked at several properties. Unfortunately, the available buildings lacked the right combination of indoor warehouse and outdoor storage. When they found buildings with enough space, it was clear the zoning would be an uphill battle.

When 665 Cyr Road came on the market, it looked like it could be a perfect solution. Just across the street from where they were leasing, it boasted 85,783 square feet of warehouse and office space on more than six acres of land. With three docks, two drive-in doors, high ceilings, and M-1 Industrial zoning, Trimarc could move right in.

But when Summers and Kootman took a look at the building together, they discovered a problem — one that just might kill the deal.

Working Together to Find a Solution

665 Cyr Road is attached to another similar building — 667 Cyr, which has 20,000 square feet of space and sits on nearly 15 acres of land. The building was on the market as well, but Trimarc didn’t need the extra square footage or nearly that much acreage.

However, Summers caught an issue that would have made it difficult to close the deal at 665 Cyr. In order to meet code, the two buildings needed to build a two-hour fire wall between them. The owners of both properties would have to work together on the project, and the cost could be prohibitive.

Fortunately, Summers was able to help the sellers of both buildings come to an agreement with Trimarc. He worked closely with the brokers for the two owners:

  • Dennis DeSantis of Colliers International represented 665 Cyr Company.
  • Mark Hejna of Gundaker Commercial represented the Thomas R. Moss, Jr. Revocable Trust, owners of 667 Cyr Rd.

In the end, Trimarc was able to purchase both buildings.

  • $800,000.
  • 106,279 square feet of industrial warehouse and office space.
  • 21+/- acres of land.

Though it’s more than Trimarc needs currently, it’s an investment for the future. Kootman will not only be helping his three children grow a profitable business, but they’ll be able to grow into the building over the length of their career.

On Summers’s recommendation, Trimarc hired Shamel Contracting to complete the what little renovation the new space needs to be move-in ready. Work should be completed by mid-September 2019.

Together, Mark, Jason, Jonathan, and Katie Kootman look forward to fourth-generation success.

Real Estate Brokers Who Understand Your Unique Business

Many entrepreneurs will only need to make a significant real estate purchase a few times in their life. And while they’re busy looking and preparing to buy a property, they have a business to run.

They need experts who know the industry, understand the market, and catch possible money-saving deals in places where even well-informed entrepreneurs might not look.

Hilliker Corporation knows commercial real estate. We know what to look out for, and we understand how to negotiate deals that will benefit your organization in the long run. We do so in a manner consistent with our reputation of honesty and fairness.

If you’re ready to move your business — or you’re ready to sell or lease your property — give one of our experienced brokers a call today.

Schilli Plastering grows into the future with industrial real estate purchase in Bridgeton, MO

The Evolution of an Industry

Dave Schilli, the second-generation owner of Schilli Plastering, is seeing his father’s business thrive in the new millennium.

Founded in 1950 by Elmer Schilli, the company started as a plaster contractor on homes, commercial buildings, and apartment complexes. By the mid-1960s, however, the construction industry was scaling back its use of plaster. That’s when Mr. Schilli received his first call from a pool installer.

Backyard pools were taking off in residential areas, and quality plastering is a vital part of the process. Slowly but surely, Schilli became known as one of the local plastering experts for pool installations.

By the time his son Dave took over the company in 1976, home and public swimming pools had become their mainstay. Not to be boxed in, they’ve continued to work in construction and continually add to their core services:

  • Plastering restoration (Schilli was responsible for the plasterwork at the POW Museum at Jefferson Barracks)
  • Tile and coping
  • Hydroblasting
  • Deck coatings
  • Stucco construction for homes
  • Insulation finish systems

Now, nearly 70 years into their journey, Schilli Plastering is doing better work than ever before.

The Challenge: Industrial Warehouse and Office with Fenced-In Parking

In 2007, Schilli purchased 123 Millwell Drive in Maryland Heights. With only twenty-five employees, five of them office staff, they were comfortable at just under 13,000 square feet. The warehouse space and fenced-in back lot were sufficient to keep their needed materials and vehicles on site.

But more calls than they could have hoped for started coming in. Schilli expanded his staff, gradually, from 25 to 75. His office staff grew to 11.

He purchased more equipment to keep up: four plaster rigs, three mason trucks, a blast truck, and numerous pickup trucks and trailers.

At one point, he needed to take an aerial photo of all the company’s vehicles. He wasn’t able — they wouldn’t all fit in his lot.

Schilli needed to find space immediately, and he started searching on his own. He put in an offer on a property he found himself, but the deal fell through.

However, he received a timely email from Will Meehan of Hilliker Corporation. Meehan had been checking in with area businesses to see if they needed any commercial real estate help. When Schilli got the email, the timing couldn’t have been better.

They spoke, and Meehan learned about Schilli’s current problem. He started searching immediately for something that would have a fenced-in lot and plenty of office and warehouse space.

Looking in Unexpected Places

Though Meehan concentrated his search on properties that met Schilli’s specifications, he employed several techniques to find listings that would be off-the-radar. Though Schilli needed industrial warehouse space with room for offices, Meehan also looked at properties marketed simply as office space.

One such property was 13284 Corporate Exchange Drive in Bridgeton. Owned by Progressive Insurance, the structure was purpose-built as an estimation center. Since clients would have to drop off their damaged vehicles there, Progressive fenced-in the large backlot.

 Though listed as office space, it was ideal for a company like Schilli Plastering.

Since it was only 10 minutes from the Schilli’s Maryland Heights location, he told Meehan he’d drive by and take a look. From the outside, it seemed ideal. The interior turned out to be perfect as well. At 17,620 square feet, Schilli’s workers could divide the space into office and warehouse, leaving plenty of room both for their employees and their supplies.

Progressive didn’t list an asking price for the building. Meehan and colleague Chris Taff would have to do their own research to come up with a “comp,” or asking price based on other comparable properties.

The work to put together a “comp” is a highly intuitive and analytical process requiring knowledge of the industry, the neighborhood, and the current market. It also requires input from other real estate professionals: fellow brokers, estimators, and contractors. Come back with an analysis that was too low, and they may lose their opportunity. Too high, and Schilli would overpay.

Their comp, however, turned out to hit the nail on the head. After minimal negotiation, Schilli Properties was able to purchase 13284 Corporate Exchange Drive in Bridgeton, MO, for $1,525,000.

 Additional Strategies for Success

Meehan and Taff were also to inform Schilli that they were eligible for a Reverse 1031 Exchange. This is a section of tax code that allows corporations to defer taxes on the sale of their previous building, even though they would sell it after they purchased the new building.

Schilli Plastering’s staff only needed to perform minimal customization to the office and warehouse to move in on Sunday, September 1, 2019.

The new space, along with ample parking, will allow Schilli Plastering to continue to do great work. No longer handicapped by too-tight quarters or an overflowing backlot, they’re perfectly positioned to prosper into the next decade and beyond.

Do you have the Hilliker Advantage?

Business owners looking for property need a competitive edge. They need someone with a broad knowledge of the market, a strong network of real estate professionals, and the creativity to find the property that suits their unique needs.

Unfortunately, too many try to go it alone, not relying on the expertise of a trusted advocate.

At Hilliker Corporation, we want to be your advocate. We want to provide you with the counsel you need through every commercial real estate transaction — throughout your life.

If your property no longer meets your needs, and you want to work with a knowledgeable consultant, schedule an appointment with Will Meehan today.

Closet Factory Franchisee Purchases Commercial Real Estate in Fenton

From Executive to Franchise Owner

St. Louisan Carl Alsbach always wanted to own a business. With an MBA and sixteen years’ experience at Dow Chemical, he hoped to put his expertise into a proven franchise one day.

As such, he had developed an admiration for the national chain Closet Factory, which uses high-grade materials to build custom closet organizational systems for their clients. Their products, designed by specially-trained employees, are highly rated by customers and come with a lifetime warranty.

In 2000, his brother-in-law, who worked for Closet Factory at the time, informed Alsbach that the St. Louis franchise would soon be available for purchase. Alsbach was interested.

As he made inquiries, he discovered how closely the company’s values aligned with his own. “Closet Factory is generally the best in the market. We do mostly high-end work. I don’t care about being the biggest—I want to do quality work.”

He purchased the St. Louis franchise of Closet Factory in 2001, leasing a commercial warehouse, showroom, and office space at 2748 Mary Avenue in Brentwood, MO. The franchise requires showroom space, office space, and warehouse space, where they also use specialized machinery to customize their products.

Over the years, he’s expanded his leased Brentwood location from 4,500 square feet to a little less than 12,000. Although he had run out of room to grow, he wasn’t looking to move. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t have a choice.

Centrally-Located Commercial Warehouse Space Near Brentwood, MO

Deer Creek, in the city of Brentwood, has long been a cause of flooding. It has become clear to the city that it needs to upgrade its flood-mitigation system and is doing so through the Brentwood Bound initiative.

Unfortunately for Alsbach, the Brentwood Bound project purchased Closet Factory’s leased building (after reaching an agreement with the landlord) and slated it for destruction.

When Alsbach’s landlord delivered the bad news, he also arranged for him to meet Hal Ball and Will Meehan of Hilliker Corporation. He was impressed with the team and asked for their help in finding commercial real estate to lease or purchase.

Alsbach presented Ball and Meehan with a few parameters. First, his franchise of Closet Factory serves clients within a 50-mile radius. The new building would need to stay inside that radius with easy access to a highway for the sake of their customers, suppliers, and staff.

Additionally, Alsbach ruled out any solutions too far to the north of his current location. As a South County resident, he thought if he needed to move the store, he’d like the new place to be closer to his home, not farther.

Since he had filled his current 12,000 square feet of space, he believed it would be best to look for something to accommodate a scaled-up showroom along with their offices and warehouse/fabrication space.

They looked at just under a dozen different properties. Meehan says, “There was nothing wrong with any of them per se, but Carl wanted to see several places that would work for his needs.”

When they finally decided to commit to buying a building, one of the current tenants exercised its first right of refusal, purchasing it for themselves. It looked like there would be nothing on the market to fit their needs.

But Meehan and Ball found another way.

Looking Off the Radar

Commercial space in fenton

Ball and Meehan tapped their network of St. Louis area brokers. Their colleague, Tim Lawlor of Balke Brown Transwestern, alerted them to an upcoming opportunity.

The owners at 1581-1599 Fenpark Drive were preparing to list the 36,000 square-foot commercial property in Fenton, MO for sale. As the pair reviewed the building’s specifications, they wondered if it would be a fit for Closet Factory.

Centrally located—but slightly closer to Alsbach’s home—the Fenton location had approximately 18,000 square feet of space available that they hadn’t been able to fill for some time.

Not only that, but they had two other stable tenants—an HVAC company and an environmental remediation company—occupying the rest of the building.

If Alsbach were to purchase the building, rather than leasing, he would expand his current space, develop his portfolio, and have room to grow in the future.

Not only that, the building had been used in the past as a training facility for Ameren, meaning the power systems that came with the building were excellent. They would easily support the equipment Closet Factory uses to fabricate its closet systems.

Carl Alsbach, represented by Hal Ball and Will Meehan, bought 1581-1599 Fenpark Drive for $2,044,000.

Synergy Between Hilliker’s Team of Brokers

Hal C. Ball

Alsbach enjoyed working with Ball and Meehan. “Hal has a tremendous amount of experience and is a wise commercial realtor. Will is younger and energetic and has a lot of ideas. The combination worked out well. Both played integral roles, and it was a pleasure working with both of them.”

The building purchase means Alsbach will be able to stop leasing his building and begin to collect lease checks from his new tenants, diversifying his portfolio and providing him with a steady source of income for years to come.

Hilliker has continued to act as trusted advisors beyond the sale. Alsbach says, “They didn’t just help me buy this building. They’re helping me take the steps necessary to become the landlord. Their experience helps in moving me along and keeping me out of trouble!”

Though the building needs a few simple improvements before it’s ready for Closet Factory to move in, Alsbach will be able to oversee all the work himself. Anticipating a September move-in date, the new Closet Factory location will be larger and positioned to grow.

Alsbach says, “Except for the fact that I was losing my building, I wouldn’t have had to move, and I hadn’t been looking forward to it. But with everything that has happened, working with Hal and Will has really made it worth it.”

Are You Ready to Diversify Your Portfolio?

At Hilliker, we’ve watched with joy as entrepreneurs, tired of paying rent, have diversified by purchasing a building for their business.

We’ve helped many of these business owners take on and manage tenants as well, growing their businesses and providing them with a passive stream of income that can last for years.

If you’re tired of leasing your space, give Hilliker a call. We work together creatively to help our clients achieve higher levels of success. Set up an appointment today.

The St. Louis Office for Developmental Disability Resources sells property, leases office space

Serving Those with Developmental Disabilities

Shaelene Plank is a licensed professional counselor and has spent the last 25 years working in various roles for those with mental health issues and developmental disabilities. Her background makes her a perfect fit for the role of Executive Director at the St. Louis Office for Developmental Disability Resources (STLDD), a position she accepted in 2017.

Founded in 1980, the organization is the intermediary for tax dollars earmarked by Missouri Senate Bill 40. STLDD distributes money to those that serve St. Louis City residents living with:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Epilepsy
  • Intellectual Disability

They also engage in targeted case management, helping match specific individuals with the services they need to live a full and productive life. Similar offices exist throughout the state (one per county) but operate independently from each other.

The agencies who receive program funds help those with developmental disabilities in numerous ways: through supportive living, employment, job training, socialization, and transportation.

A well-functioning STLDD is crucial to the health of our city.

 Re-Evaluation and Future Strategy

 

For many years, STLDD operated out of a single building in the heart of downtown St. Louis. But to handle a steadily growing number of office staff, onsite programs, and file storage, they ended up purchasing two more nearby buildings. Clients had gotten used to the three locations, and each was customized to ADA accessibility guidelines.

However, in 2016 STLDD downsized some of its staff and programs. Owning three buildings didn’t make sense anymore.

There were other limiting factors as well. Separate buildings did not allow the staff to function as a cohesive team, and the aging buildings were becoming a financial strain. Each needed serious renovation, and STLDD was reluctant to divert funds from their primary purpose.

The Board of Directors determined it made more sense to divest themselves of their current three buildings and find a quality long-term lease.

They listed the buildings for sale in early 2017, but after a year on the market, only one had sold. There was little interest in the other two: 2345 Pine Street and 2334 Olive Street.

One of the board members knew Hal Ball of Hilliker Corporation. Plank called Ball, who brought in fellow broker Patrick McKay, and together they worked on a new marketing plan.

Hal C. BallPatrick T. McKay

Originally, the properties had been listed as a rehab and development opportunity, but Ball and McKay said, “These are office buildings that someone will want as office space. We believe if you market them that way, they’ll sell.”

The strategy worked. Within months, both properties had signed contracts with solid buyers.

All that Plank and STLDD needed now was a new home. McKay and Ball negotiated a leaseback agreement with the buyers so STLDD could continue operating from their original offices until they found the perfect St. Louis City Office Space.

The Search for St. Louis City Office Space

The leaseback agreement gave Plank, Ball, and McKay a short time to find a new property for lease.

As a St. Louis City agency, they had to stay inside city limits, so the boundaries for their search were clear. They toured several different office spaces, but the team was insistent on specific features that were not widely available.

First, though they had enjoyed being in downtown St. Louis, parking was limited. They wanted property with a dedicated lot for staff, clients, and partners to use without searching for a space. As they looked, they discovered many leases would only include parking at an additional cost, asking STLDD to pay a per-space premium.

Second, the building had to be compliant—or easily made compliant—with ADA accessibility guidelines. Finally, Plank wanted the staff to be together comfortably with plenty of room for meetings and programs.

She believed 10,000 square feet would be sufficient. After touring several properties that didn’t check all three boxes, McKay and Ball finally found such a space at 2121 Hampton Avenue.      

Tighter Team, More Parking, and Freed-Up Funds

At 11,000 square feet, 2121 Hampton was large enough for the entire STLDD staff. Consolidating to one space, they feel they’ll be able to use their finances in a more directed way, serving those with developmental disabilities better.

The space required some remodeling before STLDD could move in, and Ball and McKay negotiated for significant changes to the building into the lease. Lauren Talley of Cushman Wakefield operated as the landlord’s project manager. Braun Construction Management Service was the contractor.

The move also meant they could make some badly needed technological updates: The staff will be able to replace computers that had reached end-of-life, and the conference room will gain a projector for board and partner meetings.

Plank said, “Hal and Patrick were both great. They were very responsive and really understood what we needed.”

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson

Mayor Lyda Krewson has taken notice as well. She attended STLDD’s open house on September 12, 2019.

Is Your Building Still Serving Your Company?

Not every upgrade means “bigger” or “more.” Sometimes the biggest upgrade you can make for your company and your staff means “tighter,” “smarter,” or “more efficient.”

When you look at your real estate, is it optimized for your business as it stands today? Will the size, price, and location allow you to grow into the future?

If you need to re-assess your property, talk to one of Hilliker Corporation’s Commercial Real Estate Experts. We’ll help you take a holistic look at your current property and options. If it makes sense to move, we’ll work as consultants all the way through the process.

Call a Hilliker broker for consultative help today.

Broker, Frank Yocum, Recognized as “Best of Maryland Heights”

On August 14, 2019, Hilliker Broker, Frank Yocum, was recognized as one of the “Best of Maryland Heights” by the Maryland Heights Chamber of Commerce.

With years of commitment to the community, Frank Yocum is currently helping 5 businesses find and negotiate optimal locations in Maryland Heights, while also volunteering to build the community through dedicated volunteer work with:

  • The Maryland Heights Chamber of Commerce
  • The Taste of Maryland Heights
  • The Maryland Heights Development Committee
  • The Maryland Heights Business Expo
  • The American Legion Post 213
  • CHAMP Assistance Dogs
  • Leftovers, Etc.

Congratulations, Frank on your well-deserved recognition!

St. Louis entrepreneur uses business as springboard into investment, then retirement

Multifamily Investment Property in St. Louis’s Metro East

Dan Lester is living the American dream.

Having begun his career as a mechanic, Lester opened Lesco Enterprises, a pre-owned car dealership and auto repair shop, in 1987. As Lesco grew, Lester was eventually able to stop leasing from someone else. He purchased property for the business in Cool Springs, MO, near West Florissant and I-70.

In 2009, he continued to diversify. He learned about a nearly 12,000 square foot multifamily investment property for sale at 1901 State Street in Granite City, IL.

The building was booked solid with tenants, promising an immediate source of income on day one. The bottom floor was ideal for a new business idea he had — a showroom for selling used appliances. Positioned in the business district and close to a bus stop, the location was right. He purchased the building as an investment for the future.

With Lester as landlord, tenants enjoyed a full-service lease, and Lester determined not to raise the price as long as he was the owner.

Though Granite City went through tough economic times (the city’s top employer, US Steel, had stopped production in 2015), the building stayed leased. For Lester, it served as a reliable investment for many years.

A Set-Back Turned into an Opportunity

Unfortunately, in 2016, the building suffered from a fire. Though no tenants were hurt, the building was devastated. It needed a complete overhaul if the tenants were going to move back in.

Though it was not an ideal situation, Lester decided to turn it around to improve his property’s value and his tenant’s experience.

He took the insurance payout to remodel the building, inside and out.

  • He updated the roof.
  • Had the exterior professionally tuckpointed.
  • Painted the interior and exterior.
  • Installed brand new carpet.
  • Updated the bathrooms with modern sinks, toilets, and bathtubs.

Additionally, he covered up the cinder block walls, framed in the apartments, and put in drywall. The building became more beautiful, matching a steadily redeveloping downtown area.

Making a Dream Come True

By 2017, Lester was ready to cash out and transition into retirement. Lester had a specific goal. He wanted to move to Thailand.

Having spent vacations there many times, he had fallen in love with the culture, people, and way of life. He wanted to find a way to spend the rest of his years in the South Pacific.

John H. ShepleyHe sold the auto repair shop and pre-owned car dealership. Then, he contacted Jake Shepley of Hilliker Corporation, who listed 1901 Granite City for sale. Together, they went to work looking for a buyer.

It wasn’t easy at first. Granite City real estate was moving slowly, and investors were looking for a high capitalization rate of return (cap rate). Shepley and Lester had to price strategically if they were going to attract an investor.

For the first year, they didn’t see any serious buyers. However, the city had a boost when its primary employer, US Steel, restarted production. Bringing back 800 workers in 2018, Granite City became a more attractive place for investors.

Soon, they heard from Kelvin Lai of Eugene Investments. Based in Atlanta, Lai has several holdings in the St. Louis area. He sent his local property manager and appraiser to tour the building several times.

They were impressed by Lester’s recent renovation, the quality tenants, and the town’s rising employment numbers.

Lesco, represented by Jake Shepley, sold 1901 State Street in Granite City, IL to Eugene Investments. Combined with the proceeds from the sale of his business, Lester is making plans to move to Thailand this year.

Where Are You in Your Commercial Real Estate Lifecycle?

Hilliker’s brokers are here to guide their clients into profitable decisions wherever they happen to be in their Real Estate Lifecycle.

  • STARTUP — Are you looking to make your first lease or purchase? We’ll help you make quality decisions that will work well for your current needs. We take the long view, however, and look to set you up for success.
  • GROWTH & MATURITY — As business owners tire of paying rent, they often want to buy their own building. We help business owners purchase commercial property. Then, we set them up for success through our tenant acquisition, lease negotiation, and property management services.
  • EXIT — Is it time for you to cash out? Or roll your current real estate into a hands-off investment? Hilliker, in partnership with our Westwood Lease Advisors, offers services to help people just like you make your transition into retirement.

Wherever you are in your Business Lifecycle, we want to help. Give us a call today.

Insulite Glass Finds Custom Industrial Warehouse for Sale

A Growing Enterprise

When Shannon Waterman was hired to manage the St. Louis branch of Insulite Glass Company in 2004, he found himself at the leading edge of flat glass fabrication.

Founded by Beau Guyette in Olathe, Kansas, the company manufactures insulated glass for buildings ranging from single-family homes to skyscrapers. They ship the glass throughout Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Oklahoma.

In 2000, Guyette became an early-adopter of an automated manufacturing process. It catapulted Insulite’s growth, leading them to add to their staff and open the St. Louis location.

After several successful years leasing their current space in Soulard, when Waterman called to renew their lease in early 2019, he received some challenging news.

The anchor tenant was planning to expand, and Insulite had five months to move out.

Industrial Warehouse for Sale or Lease—Searching St. Louis

Insulite’s custom process and equipment required them to find a very specific kind of building.

First, workers move glass through their warehouse using a crane with an 18-foot hook height. The crane swings through the building, requiring open space both vertically and horizontally. Unfortunately, most warehouses are constructed with numerous supporting poles that wouldn’t allow for such a crane.

The building also needed garage doors at street level so trucks could drive directly into the warehouse space. Dock-height doors were out of the question as the glass needs to be placed directly onto the truck from above.

Though ramps could be installed, they increased the likelihood of breakage. And if the glass happens to break during this sensitive process, the St. Louis branch doesn’t have the resources to recut it. They would have to wait for another shipment from headquarters in Olathe.

A. William AschingerGuyette and Waterman had moved the branch twice before, each time having relied on the expertise of Will Aschinger at Hilliker Corporation. They called on Aschinger again.

Since Aschinger already knew the particularities of their business, they were confident he could help match them to a new space.

As the team went looking for properties, Waterman asked his staff if they would be willing to move to a new part of the St. Louis area. He was relieved to find out they were. With their needs in mind, Aschinger and Waterman began touring properties in Soulard, Hanley Industrial, Fenton, Arnold, and even Hillsboro.

After viewing approximately 30 properties, Waterman finally stopped to notice a new industrial warehouse under construction near his home. Located in Pacific and under development by Joe Bosse of NEC Commercial, he wondered if the new building would be available for lease.

Going from Leasing “Paying Yourself Rent”

Aschinger was on the case. He discovered the building at 509 Route 66 Business Parkway would be 20,000 square feet of warehouse and office space. It sits on more than an acre of land, leaving room to grow. It has an open warehouse and can accommodate street-level garage doors.

Not only that, it was still under construction when they discovered it. The building could be customized to the new occupant’s specifications—even allowing for the installation of a crane before exterior walls were completed.

It was perfect for Insulite.

The building was listed “For Lease or Sale,” and Guyette decided to put in an offer on the property. Though leasing had worked well in the past, Guyette wanted to build equity and obtain control of their real estate.

Aschinger negotiated a deal that would permit Insulite to move their operation in on closing day, allowing them to keep production up and revenue flowing.

Waterman doesn’t anticipate losing any staff members, and they’re ready to add positions as well. They believe the area around Pacific will provide them with the talent pool needed to bring them into the future.

Insulite Glass, represented by Will Aschinger, purchased 509 Route 66 Business Parkway for $1,202,000.

Real Estate Consultation for Every Business

Do you have a unique service or product? A process or equipment that requires a customized building? Employees or customers that need you to stay in a specific geographic location?

Hilliker brokers are attuned to your needs, working to find a “solve” for whatever problem you face. They know the St. Louis area and know how to match your needs to available properties.

If you’re ready to find commercial real estate for your unique business, call us to find out how we can help get you the space you need.

St. Louis success story, Pic the Gift, expands with new multi-purpose space lease

Entrepreneur Finds Success in St. Louis

Wes Pickering founded Pic the Gift, LLC, in 2012, believing there was a growing desire in the marketplace for on-demand printing.

Here’s how it works: Pic the Gift allows customers to choose from a variety of printable products through an online design portal. Their customers, both individuals and corporations, customize the item’s look. They can select its color or a pre-created pattern, then add logos and photos.

Some of their printables are relatively small (mouse pads, holiday ornaments, and no-show socks). But some are comparatively large (lounge chair covers, shower curtains, blankets, and beach towels).

They also print on a wide variety of surfaces: cloth, glass, stainless steel, and ceramics, among others. The production process requires a range of large printers able to handle any scale and media.

Since they’re in the center of the country, Pic the Gift can ship to anywhere in the US in fewer than four days. Their market niche, location, and excellent service have made them an in-demand vendor for potential buyers throughout the country.

About the company’s growth, Pickering says, “We’ve been busting at the seams for eight months, growing much more quickly than we projected.” He needed a short-term solution to handle his inventory while he looked for a larger space for his business.

Commercial Industrial Warehouse Space in Overland, MO

The staff at Pic the Gift was only twenty people in July of 2017. By the beginning of June 2018, they had grown to fifty, and expect to bring on another thirty to forty employees over the next six months.

At the time, they were leasing two spaces totaling 15,000 square feet, much of it occupied by large production equipment of various kinds. They were dependent on their properties because their equipment requires more electrical service than most buildings can handle: 1,200 amps and 480-volt power.

Lacking the space to continue to grow his staff, Pickering had to turn down projects the business didn’t have the resources to handle. He didn’t want to have to do that again. For him, the growth has meant “a fun ride, but it certainly is challenging.”

It was near the end of 2018 when Pic the Gift realized it had an immediate need, which was to find space to store seasonal holiday inventory. They already had leased auxiliary warehouse space, but it had filled up much more quickly than he had expected.

After looking at approximately twenty separate buildings, he got a tip from a friend.

Picking Space with Help from Hilliker

Jeffrey J. AltvaterThe friend, who leases a portion of 10838 Ambassador, had seen a 20-year tenant vacate their space in the same building. The friend put Pickering in touch with Jeff Altvater of Hilliker Corporation, who represents the landlords.

Altvater showed Pickering the building. At 30,620 square feet and with 16 feet of ceiling clearance, it was a little larger than Pickering needed at the moment, but that wasn’t a bad thing, given their rate of growth.

When he toured the space, he liked the layout – 15% office, 85% warehouse with five loading docks. Only a half-mile from his current building, it maintained continuity and convenience for his staff, local customers, and vendors.

In fact, it offered everything a business like his needed except for one thing: enough electrical power for his equipment. Regardless, he could envision the building as a long-term office and warehouse for his whole operation.

For their part, the owners of 10838 Ambassador were highly motivated to win over Pic the Gift. They liked the story of the company—that it’s local, growing, and operating a smart and lucrative business model.

They offered to upgrade the bathrooms, as well as the previous tenant’s old fluorescent lights to LED.

But most of all, 10838 Ambassador’s owners were prepared to make a substantial investment in bringing the requisite power to the building. That included bringing in Ameren to put in a new pole and a dedicated transformer. They were also willing to pay to have the trench dug to deliver power to the building.

Pickering said, “This has been an easy, straightforward process and overall good experience. Which is what we needed, because we didn’t have a lot of time to go back and forth. We couldn’t afford to play games.”

Looking Forward to Growth

Most of Pickering’s staff has been able to tour the building. They’ve expressed excitement about the move. He says, “We’re looking forward to stretching out.”

Planning to move in August 2019, Pickering is personally overseeing construction of the new space while his staff prepares for the move and incorporates new technologies.

He’s proud of his workers, saying, “They treat people well. They do a great job.” That, along with an in-demand service and properly proportioned new office and warehouse, is what positions Pic the Gift to keep growing.

Entrepreneurs: Are You Looking for Light Industrial Warehouse Space in the St. Louis area?

When a business starts growing faster than projections, it can feel like “the best of times and the worst of times.” Though the company may be prosperous, it leaves owners with little time to consider how to deal with the sudden influx.

Hilliker Corporation understands this. We’re the entrepreneur’s choice, coming alongside to advise you. We make it our goal to improve your life, making your work more manageable, and your real estate transactions as smooth as possible.

Call us for a consultation today.