Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lone Stationer Marks Century in Business

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lone Stationer Marks Century in Business

Article excerpt

How can a small, 100-year-old, family-owned stationery store survive in an era of category-killer chain stores?

As Jesse Haggerty explains it, it helps if you own the building.

"If I had to pay rent, I don't know if I could make it," said the garrulous Haggerty with a laugh. The W.K. Woods Stationery Co. is the oldest - and the only - stationery store in downtown St. Louis. The store at 209 North Fourth Street also is one of the oldest businesses in the downtown area. "There used to be six stationery stores on this block," said Haggerty. "But when they put up the Mansion House buildings, that took most of them." W.K. Woods founded the stationery store in 1898 and was originally located on the third floor of the Merchants Laclede Building at Fourth and Olive streets. Haggerty's father, Jesse senior, purchased the company in 1911. The store later moved to 108 North Broadway. "In 1938, my father bought this building outright," Haggerty said. The present, five-story building has been the location of W.K. Woods for nearly 60 years. Haggerty started at the store full time in 1948. His father had assumed Haggerty's older brother, Glennon, would take over the business, but he was killed in World War II. Haggerty, 63, runs the store with his daughter, Dennessa, who has been at the store for 21 years. At one time or another all seven of his children and his wife have worked full or part-time at the store. And the grandkids as well. Over the years, Haggerty has seen the stationery business change dramatically. "When I first started we were still selling the bound ledger books," said Haggerty. Then in the 1950s, spindle accounting books came in. Now, everything is on computer, so there is a limited demand for such products. About 40 percent of Haggerty's business is legal forms and documents. …

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