An Interview with AvenueWest St. Louis Owner, Stephanie Allen
You may not know it, but St. Louis has both royal and Olympian heritage. A key hub for fur trading along the Mississippi River in 1764, the growing town was named after King Louis of France, and in 1904 it became the first American city to host the modern Olympics. Now, AvenueWest can’t claim such prestigious connections — although we’ve won awards — but, we’re proud to carry on the tradition of welcoming visitors to St. Louis through our corporate housing offering.
As the second-largest city in Missouri, with a population of more than 300,000, St. Louis is a perfect place for a corporate housing franchise. To learn more about why, we talked with franchise owner Stephanie Allen about her community. With 25 properties in her corporate rentals portfolio, Allen has been with AvenueWest since 2017. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
What is drawing people to St. Louis?
We’re in the middle of everything; it doesn’t take long to get to either coast. Plus, we have an affordable cost of living and affordable housing., coupled with great employers here. As a city, we are motivated to continue to attract more.
To each their own, but I like the size of it. We have some of the big stuff and the small town feel, too. You can’t forget about our Midwestern hospitality. Even friends that have moved to other cities and other states say Midwesterners are the nicest people. They are the ones that will stop on the side of the road and help you, and they will go out of their way to make you feel welcome. It’s only natural we are good at welcoming corporate visitors, too.
Who is taking advantage of corporate housing in St. Louis?
We are happy to have a variety of corporate customers. This includes large corporate customers like Boeing, Baer Inc, Edward Jones, Worldwide Technology, and the world’s largest car rental operator Enterprise Holdings, and healthcare related travelers. For example, BJC Healthcare is the largest employer in all of St. Louis and we often welcome traveling nurses.
Outside of corporate, we also work with insurance agencies to support displaced individuals and families, alongside individual guests that are building a house or in between homes.
Our typical stay is about 90 days, so it’s enough time for them to secure some sort of permanent housing.
What does AvenueWest offer?
St. Louis is a very suburban area, and month-to-month leases are very difficult to find. Our properties include single family homes, condos, townhomes, apartments, and some lofts downtown. They’re high quality and fully furnished. We provide the convenience of not having to pack up your house and then unpack it again before you start. You can just come into our properties and start living like you’re at home.
There’s also not as much co-mingling with guests as there would be in a hotel, and not as many shared spaces. That’s particularly attractive right now with remote work and uncertainty around changing office policies. When people don’t know when or how often they can go into the office, they enjoy the flexibility of our furnished housing.
With our properties, people are also able to part of a neighborhood quickly. We can place families in particular school systems, or allow them to get to know a community before committing to it.
What makes for an ideal corporate housing unit in St. Louis?
Personally, if I am going to travel and stay somewhere else, I like it to be nicer than my home. We look for something that is clean, modern, and updated. Parking is a must; we need it to be convenient for the guests. We also like it to be easily accessible from the streets and the highways. Many of our units can be pet-friendly, and some offer amenities such as a community pool or being near a dog park or walking trails.
What are people doing for fun in St. Louis?
There is a little bit of everything in St. Louis. If you are an animal lover, you may have already heard about our St. Louis zoo. It’s one of the top three zoos in the country and it is completely free. We are also proud of the City Museum, and Forest Park, an incredible oasis that is actually bigger than Central Park in New York.
If you are only here for a few months, we hope our guests try out a float trip like the locals do and spend an afternoon floating down the river. Or you might go to Lake of Ozarks State Park to swim, boat, fish, hike or camp.
And of course, if you are a sports-lover, there is something for everyone, too. The St. Louis Blues won their first Stanley Cup in 2019, plus, the Cardinals have won the World Series 11 times. Ballpark Village in the heart of St. Louis is an entire entertainment center now.
Why would someone want to rent with AvenueWest?
My competitors only offer apartments, so they tend to be geographically limited.
With AvenueWest, we are proud to offer a variety of single-family homes while being in neighborhoods that are difficult to find rental properties. Our goal is to always provide our guests the comforts of feeling like you are living at home.
Why should an investor list a property with you?
By offering fully furnished and meticulously maintained properties, we get higher returns than an unfurnished property. Given the cyclical nature of our properties, we typically refresh each unit every 90-days. As a result, there is less wear and tear on corporate rentals, coupled with our ongoing maintenance and stringent cleaning protocols.
Why would you suggest joining AvenueWest as a franchisee?
The network. The experience. The reputation. Everyone instantly recognizes the AvenueWest brand and helps you with what you need. When you’re getting off the ground, AvenueWest carries a reputation that helps you engage with preferred providers that you would otherwise struggle with as an independent corporate housing representative.
A lot of companies took a hit in 2020; it was a scary time. It was good to be with AvenueWest to be able to adapt and shift to changing markets.
Lastly, why do you love what you do?
It goes back to my Midwestern roots. I love to help people, and make them feel at home. With AvenueWest, I have a team and community to support my business. It’s fun to do the weekly franchise calls and learn what’s working for others and sharing trends that we’re all seeing. Plus, as an owner, I can make my own schedule to provide the freedom and flexibility that I need. I love AvenueWest, and the franchise we have built here in my hometown of St. Louis.
St. Louis hosted the 1904 World Fair. It has more free tourist attractions than any other city in the country outside of Washington, D.C. Toasted ravioli got its start in St. Louis. The city is home to the second largest Mardi Gras festival in the country (behind New Orleans).
More Fun Facts about St. Louis
St. Louis hosted the 1904 World Fair.
It has more free tourist attractions than any other city in the country outside of Washington, D.C.
Toasted ravioli got its start in St. Louis.
The city is home to the second largest Mardi Gras festival in the country (behind New Orleans).