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Relocation of Mary Rents Offers Opportunity for City Welcome Center

Business location on Fifth Street had long been targeted possible welcome center for the city.

A familiar mainstay of S. Fifth Street will be on the move next month as prepares to relocate to new digs in Frenchtown.

“We’re not moving far away from our neighborhood,” said Todd Hoerman, owner of the tool rental facility that provides equipment for homeowners and light contractors. “We’re still keeping it in our community, our town.”

Mary Rents put up banners this week announcing the impending move. Todd Hoerman got approval for the new location in Frenchtown last fall, but delays prolonged the move, which is set to take place over the 4th of July weekend.

The business' current location at the corner of Boone's Lick and S. Fifth Street has long been discussed as a perfect location for a new tourism center for the city.

Archie Scott, a leader of historic preservation in the city who died in December 2007, pushed for the city to acquire the property for a welcome center. In an Opinion Shaper column he wrote for the Suburban Journals in July 2007, he wrote, "If Mary Rents could be relocated, this would be a perfect location for a welcome center, conveniently located off I-70 and right at the entranceway to historic and riverfront attractions." 

Bruce Evans, direct of Community Development, said he doesn't think the city ever took any official steps to acquire the property, although the possibility had been discussed for years.

"Archie, this was dear to his heart," said Evans. "He always held the city official's feet to the fire and said, 'We can't let this slip by.'"

Carl Hoerman, who owns the Mary Rents property at 1100 S. Fifth Street, said the location would make a good tourism center. He said he always talked to Scott about the possibility, but said hasn't heard from the city about buying the property yet.

"We had always talked about working with them, whatever way they wanted to acquire it, we'd try to make it work," he said. "I figured the city would be knocking on the door."

Councilman Tom Besselman, Ward 2, said a welcome center would be nice, but it's important to remember that Fifth Street is not the only way to get into the city.

"Maybe at this time they (the city) don't need it," he said. "Maybe they can't afford it."

The city's is located on Main Street, next to the State

New Location Provides More Room

The move to 1520 N. Second St. situates Mary Rents on a one-acre tract on the north end of the main business district in Frenchtown, which has seen a spate of improvements and more businesses moving in over the past year or two.

Todd Hoerman said the company plans to hold a grand opening ceremony late next month. The move over the holiday weekend will mean there is no break in service for customers when the business reopens that Tuesday.

Mary Rents purchased the lot and will use the existing building. Extensive roofing work, new paint and drywall were installed in the structure, which is five times the size of the 1,000 square-foot facility the company is presently renting on Fifth St. New landscaping, paving and tree plantings are also a part of the plan for the property which backs up to the Katy Trail.

The property itself is about twice the size of the company’s present lot and Hoerman said the extra room will make maneuvering hauling vehicles easier. The bigger facility will also allow for an indoor work area that can accommodate larger equipment.

“It’ll be a little easier getting in and out of the building itself, getting in and out of the parking lot and a little bigger area to work with all of the different trailers we might be sending in and out,” he said.

Todd Hoerman said most St. Charlesans probably remember the new site best as a gas station.

“There has been a variety of things going through there, a fruit stand, a vegetable stand,” he said. “There was a church in there for a little bit.”

The idea for the move has been in the works for three years, said Todd Hoerman, the third owner of the business which he purchased in 1996. Mary Rents was founded in the mid-1960s.

He said the challenge was to find the right spot. Todd Hoerman, a resident of St. Charles, wanted to keep the establishment in the city.

“I think the area still needs a rental store,” he said. “A lot of business in the St. Charles area seem to have gone to the outskirts of town or even moved away but I think it’s good to stay in the area and it’s good for the town.”

Like most moves from longtime locations, this one isn’t without regret but Todd Hoerman believes it will help the company to better serve customers.

“There is some sadness but it’s going to be great with the building being so much bigger and there are so many pluses there,” he said.

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