December 4, 2016

Rolling Ridge Nursery grows from deep family roots

MARY MASURAT / The Journal Rolling Ridge Nursery is located at 60 N Gore Ave., St. Louis, MO. 63119.

MARY MASURAT / The Journal
Rolling Ridge Nursery is located at 60 N Gore Ave., St. Louis, MO. 63119.

rollingridge_mary2

MARY MASURAT / The Journal
Co-owner Don Baumstark has been working at Rolling Ridge Nursery since 1968.

Rolling Ridge Nursery on a spring, Saturday morning is described by co-owner Don Baumstark as, “hand to hand combat at times.” Customers fill the shop looking for the perfect flowers, trees, mulch and planting advice. But what keeps the employees working hard through the spring chaos is their connection to their deep family roots.

From Horses to Flowers

Rolling Ridge was started in 1894 by Henry Shultz at the corner of Gore and Marshall in Webster Groves as a wagon team, moving people’s goods. When people moved by train to the country — as Webster Groves was considered at that time — they hired Shultz’s team of horse-pulled wagons to move them in.

What is now the nursery used to be a stable for the horses. Shultz’s son-in-law, James McMillan inherited the stable, ended the wagon team and began selling compost and straw. The McMillan family replaced horses and hay with flowers and transformed the stable into Rolling Ridge Nursery.

In the back corner of the shop, behind flowerpots, there are still remnants of the old stable door. The 2-foot-thick limestone walls and the old oak timber ceiling and floor joists are still found throughout the building. The information counter that sits in the middle of the shop was used by Henry Shultz in his feed store office.

Today’s blooming family business

When Baumstark first started working at Rolling Ridge in 1968, Jim McMillian Jr. ( the president of Rolling Ridge)’s parents (the founders), were still active in the business. One afternoon after walking by Rolling Ridge on his way home from Webster Groves High School, Baumstark decided to ask for a job there.

“I stopped in and asked if they needed some help. And Jim said ‘yea I think we might be able to use you,’” Baumstark said. “Then his dad looked at me and said ‘I think he’s awful skinny. He probably won’t work out.’”

But he has worked there ever since, and his son Grant Baumstark now works there as well.

Jim McMillian’s daughter Lynn Cressler is in the fourth generation of the family to work in the building and her son James Cressler is the fifth. James Cressler said there are people that work at Rolling Ridge that have known him since he was born.

“Just being a kid before I started working here, I would just run around and throw tennis balls off the brick outside by all the mulch,” James Cressler said.

For these families Rolling Ridge has become a second home. Baumstark admits he probably spends more time there than he does at home, especially in the spring.

“It’s a great job because it’s never the same day in and day out,” Baumstark said. “It’s been that way for 40 plus years.”

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