A longtime St. Louis auto influencer, Don Brown Chevy makes another Commercial Real Estate investment in the city with help from Jake Shepley of Hilliker Corporation.
Building a legacy “at the entrance to The Hill.”
Anyone who grew up watching St. Louis TV knows the famous faces—and voices—of both Don Brown Sr. and Jr. With the tagline, “We’ll get you a Don Brown deal at the entrance to The Hill,” they’ve continually affirmed their commitment to the city.
After many successful years in the used car business, Don Brown Sr. opened Don Brown Chevrolet at 3721 South Grand in 1984. By 1989, they had outgrown their lot. GM saw the dealership’s success and sought out Don Brown with an idea: Open a bigger lot and add Buick to the lineup.
That’s when Brown moved his operation to 2244 South Kingshighway, and it’s become a local landmark ever since. At the time of their move, they brought seventy-five employees to oversee their lot, shop, and a small collision center.
Under Don Brown Sr.’s leadership, the dealership continued a successful partnership with GM. Unfortunately, Don Brown Sr. passed away in 1997, shortly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Don Brown Jr., however, has been able to build on his father’s legacy.
Under the new leadership, the dealership has been able to grow despite the changes in the auto industry. Now, with one hundred seven employees, Don Brown Chevy wanted to expand their capacity without losing their home base “at the entrance to the Hill.”
Looking for Commercial Property in the City of St. Louis
Most St. Louisans know Don Brown Chevy as a consumer car and truck dealership. However, a significant segment of their customer base relies on them for fleet vehicles—municipalities being among its largest verticals.
The dealership also repairs cars damaged in collisions, with thirteen insurance companies consistently sending them auto body work.
Both of those sides of the business require lot space that competes with their regular stock of new and used vehicles. To keep up, they’ve bought up as much adjacent property as possible. However, now landlocked, they’ve kept up with the demand by:
- Leasing off-site storage space as close to the dealership as possible
- Continually looking for new lot space to lease
- Dealing with the constant traffic jam of vehicles coming and going from their Kingshighway headquarters
Brown and his team realized if they moved their fleet vehicle sales and storage down the street, it would increase profitability and improve their workflow. First, they would have more room for fleet vehicle storage and increase their capacity to handle body shop work. It would also allow them to spend less time directing traffic in and out of their tight, landlocked lot.
Additionally, they had just dedicated more space at their home property to a new paint booth and medium-duty repair facility. Don Brown’s General Manager Greg Flotte stopped looking for rental property and began looking for a secondary lot to purchase. They knew it would be the right move for the organization as a whole.
One of the lots Flotte found had a Hilliker “big red H” sign out front—4501 Oleatha Avenue. Jake Shepley of Hilliker Corporation represented the property, so Flotte gave him a call.
Doing business with “a handshake kind of guy.”
4501 Oleatha was the home of Dizdar Brothers Sewer and Construction, a partnership between Ivan and Steven Dizdar that began in 1974. Successfully retiring after forty-six years in business, they were ready to sell their building and lot, which sat at a prime location in the Tower Grove South neighborhood.
The property features new, metal industrial buildings with drive-in doors and excellent outside storage. With 1800 square feet for offices and a shop, the buildings sit on a lot just under 2.7 acres and zoned K industrial.
Even better, it’s only one and a half miles from Don Brown Chevrolet, a trip that only takes about five minutes. It was a perfect fit both for storage and an off-site body shop.
Brown said, “Jake is an easy-going guy—extremely helpful and trustworthy. Since he represented both the seller and us, he got us all together. I think he could tell I’m a handshake kind of guy. It was an easy and amicable process.”
The new fleet vehicle location means less congestion, better workflow, and a better experience for their customers. Brown is especially eager to offer this new location to fleet vehicle clients, saying, “Now, we have ample parking for customers that drive a long way. You can pull up, grab some coffee, sit, and relax.”
The purchase of this property also shows Brown’s continued dedication to the city of St. Louis, choosing to stay in the city when other dealerships are moving west. Brown also invests his time and money in “small, niche non-profits that can influence grass-roots improvement in the city.” And he believes robust businesses within the city limits make for a healthier city.
When asked about the future, Brown spoke about the generational nature of his business, saying, “I hope ten years from now, you’re talking to my son about this.” Now a high school student and athlete, Brown’s son spends his off-season working in the business his father and grandfather built.
The Entrepreneur’s Choice for St. Louis
A thriving business community is vital to the success of our region. And at some point in their growth, most thriving businesses will need to make a change in their commercial property to make the most of the opportunities at hand.
At Hilliker Corporation, we believe it’s our job to come alongside our city’s entrepreneurs to help them succeed. We can help you build your business through our knowledge of commercial real estate, our connections, and our experience working with entrepreneurs of all kinds.
If your business is ready for a change in commercial real estate, we’d love to be part of your team. Call our broker Jake Shepley to learn how we can help you.