From Suburb to City — AB Mauri Loves Life in Cortex Innovation District

By Michael Calhoun –

From Suburb to City — AB Mauri Loves Life in Cortex Innovation District

ST. LOUIS — A major company whose name you might not know — but whose products you’ve almost certainly eaten — is settling in after moving headquarters from west county to the inner city.

AB Mauri is best known for Fleischmann’s Yeast, but also makes ingredients for major bakers whose breads wind up in restaurants and on grocery store shelves.

President Mark Prendergast got the bug to move to the urban core after two encounters. First, a cycling trip around Forest Park in his first days in the St. Louis region. And second, after seeing the astonished looks on the faces of his European colleagues as they walked the Central West End.

He says the executives, from AB Mauri’s parent company in London, were accustomed to in-and-out trips to the company’s then-headquarters in a Chesterfield office park and had never actually seen St. Louis — the city.

“The overwhelming impression was one of, ‘Well, I didn’t know St. Louis was like this,’” he said. “There was a desire to invest further” after the experience.

Prendergast comes to St. Louis from Sydney, Australia, by way of Calgary, and says he’s experienced the excitement of working in cities and in innovation districts.

He started thinking after finding the Cortex Innovation District on that cycling jaunt — and seeing the @4240 building when it was a shuttered Bell telephone factory behind a chain link fence.

This February, he and his employees made the move.

Inside AB Mauri’s new headquarters in that @4240 building in the Cortex Innovation District, the office is open and airy and large windows look into a ‘baking hub’, where the company’s scientists experiment with new strains of yeast and new baking strategies.

He says employees once concerned about crime are now talking about walking to lunch in the Central West End. Some workers have to drive a little bit longer to get to the new location, although he says others now have a shorter and more convenient commute.

The “informal collisions,” as he calls them, between AB Mauri employees and others in the innovation district is proving to be beneficial. He notes that his technical staff may exchange knowledge with a Boeing worker in the suite next-door.

“I think we’re a far more appealing employer than we were at Chesterfield,” Prendergast said.

In the last several weeks, he says he’s made key hires of people who’re moving to St. Louis from London; Portland, Oregon and San Diego.

“I’m very, very confident that we wouldn’t have attracted the caliber of people we are attracting had we not made the move,” Prendergast says.


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