Oldest St. Louis Florist Operates in Richmond Heights

Claire Waldbart Kramer is the fourth-generation owner of the Richmond Heights business Alex Waldbart Florist, which sits at the corner of Clayton Road and Big Bend Boulevard. German immigrant Alex Waldbart founded the company in 1872.

Claire Waldbart Kramer represents the fourth generation of her family to own and operate -based , which she said is the oldest company of its kind in St. Louis. Nonetheless, she and her staff say the business offers plenty of new ideas to provide services for weddings, funerals, birthdays, holidays and more.

Kramer's great-grandfather, Alex, founded the florist in 1872 after immigrating to the U.S. from Germany. The name "Waldbart" is a combination of the German words for "beard" and "forest."

Her family came from the Black Forest, and she suspects that her managed a nursery there and then used his expertise to become a florist upon moving to America. It's likely that the flowers and other materials he used were locally grown. (Compare that to today, Kramer said, when most flowers are flown in from South America.)

His son Lee Waldbart Sr. managed the florist in the years that followed, then Lee Waldbart Jr. and finally Kramer. She has owned the company since 2000 and has worked there for 26 years.

She remembers hearing stories about how her father's uncles stood guard at night outside the business. That's because floral arrangements were stationed along the sidewalk for pickup and delivery the next day. Early on, men in horse-drawn wagons brought ice to keep the flowers cool. Fans kept the air circulating.

The florist has seen its share of change. Kramer's grandfather feared he would lose the business during the Great Depression. It has moved several times; locations at which the business operated before coming to the southwest corner of Big Bend Boulevard and Clayton Road were the intersections of Clara Avenue and Delmar Boulevard; Hamilton Avenue and Horton Place; and Hamilton and Etzel avenues.

The company opened for business in in 1967.  In 2004, a fire happened at the store, and it's an event many people remember, Kramer said. In 2007, the business expanded into what previously operated as a Greek imports store.

Window displays change seasonally and are immediately visible from Clayton Road.

"We all take turns doing those," Kramer said.

The business provides service throughout St. Louis and into St. Charles County.

Its annual open house will happen from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 15, when customers will be able to get 20 percent off of all merchandise.


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