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Returned To The City: Mercedes-Benz Dealership

October 30, 2014 Featured, Retail, STL Region 9 Comments

After nearly a two decade absence (see Last Downtown St. Louis Auto Dealership Closed in 1995), a Mercedes-Benz dealership is once again located within the City of St. Louis.  Two more exist in the region, one in St. Louis County and one in St. Charles County. None in the Metro East.

Mercedes-Benz of St. Louis opened recently at Hampton Ave. & Clayton Ave., I stopped by for a visit earlier this month.

The new Mercedes-Benz of St. Louis at Hampton & Clayton
The new Mercedes-Benz of St. Louis at Hampton & Clayton

Before we take a closer look at the finished dealership, we need to revisit the before and during.

KTVI's studios previously occupied the site. October 2012
KTVI’s studios previously occupied the site, not remotely urban. October 2012 photo
By July 2013 the old KTVI building had been razed, the site fenced. August 2013 photo
By July 2013 the old KTVI building had been razed, the site fenced. August 2013 photo
The steel structure for the main showroom going up in February 2014
The steel structure for the main showroom going up in February 2014
View from Hampton
View looking north along Hampton
View looking east along Clayton
View looking east along Clayton
View from near the east-facing showroom entrance, looking down the accessible route to the Clayton Ave public sidewalk
View from near the east-facing showroom entrance, looking down the accessible route to the Clayton Ave public sidewalk. See Mini of St. Louis, it is possible to comply in a graceful way!
Inside the showroom
Inside the showroom
Southern view of dealership. Service work is done in the level below the showroom. Customers drop off their cars on the main level though...
Southern view of dealership along Berthold Ave. Service work is done in the level below the showroom. Customers drop off their cars on the main level though.
Customers dropping off or picking up their Mercedes-Benz do so up on the main level, but visiting the parts department requires a short flight of stairs that lack handrails. The grade change on Berthed Ave would've permitted an accessible entry.
Customers dropping off or picking up their Mercedes-Benz do so up on the main level, but visiting the parts department requires a short flight of stairs that lack handrails. The grade change on Berthed Ave would’ve permitted an accessible entry.

For nearly 20 years this dealership, then called TriStar Imports, was located in suburban Ellisville at 16360 Truman Rd Ellisville, Missouri 63011.  Their old location is listed for $4.5 million. The far west county demographics just weren’t what they hoped they’d be.

Welcome back!

— Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    So, other than the parts department, are we to assume that access for pedestrians and public transit users meets, your standards?

    I don’t agree with your last statement, that “The far west county demographics just weren’t what they hoped they’d be.” Their market base was significantly impacted when Tri-Star opened up 6-8 years ago, in St. Charles County. There’s apparently enough business for two M-B dealerships, west of the city limits, but not enough business for three – they were literally “stuck in the middle”. It’ll be interesting to see how much Plaza is impacted, if any, by their competitor’s new location.

    New urban dealerships are an interesting phenomenon. M-B apparently is focusing on that market in Gemany, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-05/mercedes-to-double-downtown-outlets-as-urban-areas-grow.html . . but most American cities are seeing more leave than open, http://www.autonews.com/article/20140926/BLOG06/140929903/how-to-drive-dealers-back-to-washington-d.c.? . . Combine that with the focus on dealer consolidation, pushed by manufacturers to increase per-dealer sales, http://www.autonews.com/article/20141020/RETAIL07/310209837/cadillac-dealers-feel-the-heat . . and expecting any more new dealerships in St. Louis seems like a real stretch, especially since the two most likely prospects, Mini and Fiat already have non-urban locations, unlike Chicago, http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/2012/10/dealership-gallery.html

    And, from an urban design standpoint, is any new urban dealership, even a well-executed one, really a good thing? Should we focus more on improvements to public transit, more car sharing and more walkable, pedestrian-oriented businesses and housing? Sure, this is an attractive, glass box, close to the public sidewalk, on two sides, but how well does it meet the needs of the Hill and dogtown? Does it (and the future Zoo projects) improve the connections between the existing residential areas and Forest Park? Or, do they focus primarily on suburban commuters, on 64/40? Hmmmm . . . .

     
    • Otherwise it meets the minimums, Along Clayton Ave it feels good since vehicles aren’t displayed there.

      Mercedes-Benz of St. Charles was under construction in 2004, likely opened in 2005. I verified this via historixaerals.com. That dealership is now know as Plaza Mercedes West. TriStar was the name of the dealer in Ellisville that returned to the city.

      At the time Boulevard Mercedes moved out to Ellisville to become TriStar it might have been a good move at the time, but soon after their target demographic moved to 1) St. Charles County & 2) inside I-170.

      Wild Oats, the former high-end organic competitor to Whole Foods, opened a new store in Chesterfield but closed a few years later. Again, the west county demographics weren’t what they expected. St. Charles County is different, not big enough for a Whole Foods though.

       
      • JZ71 says:

        Demographics for car dealers are different than they are for more-frequently-used retail, things like grocery stores, discount stores, drug stores and restaurants. Most brands have fewer than a half dozen outlets in any major metropolitan area, and many only have one or two outlets. Shoppers go to wherever the dealer may be – if you want a smart, you have one choice, if you want a Land Rover, you have one choice, If you want a Mini, you have one choice. When IKEA opens, you, I and everyone else in the area are going to go to where it is. And if some brand has two or three locations, many people will “shop” all of ’em, choosing, ultimately, to buy at the one that either treats ’em better or gives ’em the better deal, NOT on where it may be physically located.

        As you noted, M-B had (and still has) only three outlets in the region, Creve Couer, Ellisville (now, the city) and O’Fallon, all fairly close together. It’s not the demographics of Ellisvile that encouraged them to move, it was the fact that they had one existing competitor eight miles to the northest and one new competitor fifteen miles to the northwest, and both were way more conveniently located, close to major freeways (I-64 and I-270, respectively) than they were. They were losing customers to their competitors, not because the local demographics were poor or had gone downhill. They had a dated facility on a congested suburban arterial (Manchester Road), and by moving to their new location they gained three important things, freeway access, a central location (between our two downtowns) and they’re now closer to everyone on the east side! The local demographics had very little to do with the move – the disposable incomes in Ellisville, Ballwin and Manchester are way higher than those in dogtown, the Hill, Mapewood and Richmond Heights. It’s location, location, location, and when it comes to service, a far better location for their higher-income, white collar demographic and where they work (not live) than they had previously!

        And if the demographics of west county are so bad, why did Lucky’s Market (a direct competitor to Whole Foods) choose to open their first location, recently, in the heart of Ellisville, at the corner of Clayton and Clarkson? And why would they put their second location in Rock Hill?! (http://www.luckysmarket.com/) I get it, you want the suburbs to be a failure. I’m more interested in seeing successes in the city than I am in documenting (and gloating over) failures in non-urban areas. Retail is tough, and we see businesses fail, every day, in both urban and suburban areas. That does not make one inherently better than the other, just different. We need to focus on why businesses succeed in the city, not on why they fail in Ellisville!

         
        • Hmm, I heard the salesperson I spoke to differently than you did. Oh that’s right, you weren’t with me.

           
          • JZ71 says:

            “The move also grows out of a desire to locate the luxury dealer more centrally in the region, with easy visibility and access to its main artery, Highway 40 (Interstate 64), said TriStar President Tom Hennekes.

            “Hennekes bought the dealership in 1995, when it was known as Boulevard Motors and was located downtown at 2222 Market Street, now the site of the St. Louis FBI office. He moved the dealership to Ellisville in 1997, near a stretch of strip malls and other auto dealerships west of Ballwin and just off Manchester Road.

            “At the time, Mercedes officials preferred a west county location for the dealership. ‘Things were expanding in the county and we thought that would be a good for the future,’ he said. ‘And for a time, it was.’

            “Mercedes officials now want a dealer nearer the urban core” . . . .

            http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/after-two-decades-city-of-st-louis-gets-mercedes-dealer/article_f08e6e58-0e31-11e2-ba62-0019bb30f31a.html

             
          • Proves my point! Things were expanding, for a while. For decades retailers followed customers away from the urban core, now they realize it’s important to be nor it.

             
      • Greg says:

        Wild Oats closed because Whole Foods bought them out and consolidated stores. I don’t think the closing in Chesterfield had anything to do with demographics… but rather the merger of the two companies.

         
        • It happened around the same time, the store wasn’t making money. If it was still open when Whole Foods bought the chain they saw the numbers and decided it was cheaper to pull the plug than continue operating.

           
  2. RyleyinSTL says:

    I was happy and surprised to hear that M-B would move in to this location a few years ago. It is nice to see how the building hugs Hampton and Clayton a bit instead of having a paved waist-land between the road and the building. Hopefully the zoo development will be similarly massed and make things feel a bit more cozy there.

    I went in and took a peak at the new C Class and the sales guy talked about DINKS as one of the main reasons to locate back in the city. Service revenue is important and more and more of the DINKS market is city bound. Plus the traditionally upwardly mobile M-B buyers drive right by the dealer on the way downtown or to Wash-U/BJH.

     

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