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What Are Grain Bins Doing Next To Ikea?

St. Louis is not exactly a farm town, but you don’t have to look hard to find ag-related commerce here. One big example is Elevator “D,” a grain terminal at 4040 Duncan Ave., neighboring the soon-to-be home of Ikea, the much anticipated Swedish furniture store.

So just what is this massive cement structure? The 88 bins housed within can hold 2.4 million bushels of grain. Built in 1953, it was bought in the mid-1980s by Ray-Carroll County Grain Growers Inc., a farmer’s co-op headquartered in Richmond, Mo.

The elevator’s manager, Brent Ricke, said the only grain these bins hold is soft red wheat, which it buys from farmers within about a 150-mile radius of St. Louis.

"We try to buy good quality wheat, and most of our wheat goes to the flour mills," Ricke said. "Locally, we try to go to ADM Milling and ConAgra milling. We do load some on barges and send it down the river when the market gets aggressive, but most of it goes to milling."

The View

Credit Stephanie Zimmerman, St. Louis Public Radio.
View of the Ikea construction site from the top of the Elevator D's bin deck, about 140 feet up. Listen to St. Louis Public Radio's Maria Altman talk with the elevator's Brent Ricke while standing on top of the structure.

The top of the grain terminal’s bin deck offers great views, including of the construction of Ikea. The 380,000 square-foot store is expected to open in fall 2015. It’s being built on 21 acres within St. Louis’ innovation district, Cortex.

Ray-Carroll’s Elevator D has had to make some changes to accommodate its new neighbor, including moving the driveway from Duncan Avenue to Sarah Avenue and taking out old train tracks. Ricke said they’ve also put in new concrete around the terminal and a dust collector system.

"We’re working with Ikea and the growing community, because we want to be part of it," he said. "It’s hopefully going to be a great partnership around here."

A Dying Breed

While Ricke welcomes all the change going on around Elevator D, one of the things he likes about working at this grain terminal is that it’s a bit old-fashioned.

"This is a dying breed you know," Ricke said. "You don’t see these old elevators anymore."


For instance, there’s the manlift that carriers workers up the 11 floors of the elevator to the top of the bins. It consists of a platform that’s about a foot across, no walls, a handle to hold onto, and a rope pulley that starts and stops the lift.

"Nowadays they have manlifts where you’re all enclosed," Ricke said, "but this is original to the place."

Watch Ricke take a ride below:

Elevator D Manager Brent Ricke Takes a Ride on the Manlift from St. Louis Public Radio on Vimeo.

Follow Maria Altman on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.