For many, Kirkwood evokes the ideal small town, with big city amenities. In the heart of the historic district, O.K. Hatchery Feed and Garden Store stresses small town values, one scoop of bird feed or sale of baby chicks at a time.

For 90 years, the iconic retailer has been the store where locals and others find just about anything. Anything, that is, tied to gardening, husbandry, bird feeding, pet care and the like.

Inside the red barn-like building on Argonne Drive, patrons find a plethora of goods from garden tools, pots, decor, footwear and organic fertilizers to dog food, feline formulas and O.K.'s special bird feed, mixed in and sold from metal trash cans.

"The big box stores tell people looking for unusual items to check us out," said Pat Krieger, business manager and wife of Ron Krieger, who is the son of O.K. Hatchery founder Oscar Krieger (hence the O.K. in the company name).

"The main thing we sell, however, is knowledge –knowledge of the area, our products and the historic community," she continued.

This summer, the fourth generation of Kriegers took part in the business. Ron and Pat Krieger's sons, Mark and Steve, have worked with their parents since graduating from college years ago – Mark Krieger in business, Steve Krieger in horticulture.

Steve Krieger's three children – Erickson, Emily and Mallory, all Kirkwood High School grads now in college – worked part-time at the hatchery before heading back to school recently.

Mark Krieger's two sons, Ben and Theo, are right behind their older cousins: Ben, now a freshman at Saint Louis University High School, put time in at the store this summer. His younger brother Theo, a College School student, looks ahead for his turn at the store.

It's a family affair, with the whole bunch sharing in Kirkwood's rich history. Pat and Ron Krieger graduated from Kirkwood High School in the mid-1950s. Her family raised chickens and grew up near the first O.K. Hatchery off of Essex. Their sons Mark and Steve Krieger graduated from Kirkwood High in 1978 and 1982. Mark Krieger is married to Elysia, and Steve is married to Sheryl.

O.K. Hatchery Founder Oscar Krieger met his wife and business partner, Lucille Krieger, at the old Brown College, which became Sanford-Brown.

True to its roots, the store again sells supplies for chicken rearing. Loosening laws regarding backyard chickens along with interest in sustainable gardening and organic foods prompted O.K. Hatchery to up the ante about five years ago in serving those needs, Pat Krieger said.

For years, since its start in 1927, chickens stole the show at O.K. Hatchery. Back then, Oscar Krieger opened what would become one of the main hatcheries and feed stores in the region. The budding businessman, whose father died young, ran a hatchery next to the family home where he lived with his mother and two sisters.

At its height, O.K. Hatchery incubated over 175,000 eggs from nearby farms, staggering sales of baby chicks in the spring to meet the demand. A fire in 1944 engulfed the hatchery building and an adjacent broiler house full of hens on sale for cooking/frying. The Kirkwood Fire Department saved the Krieger family home, though all but a partly-built structure survived on the business side, Ron Krieger said.

Oscar Krieger made the partly-erected building larger than first planned and kept the hatchery going. Before long, he had to react to the waning interest in chicken rearing after the rations and wartime shortages of the 1940s.

In 1947, Oscar Krieger bought the Coulter Feed Co. building on Argonne Drive and moved just one incubator upstairs. Along with chicken supplies, he sold other animal feed and expanded on pet food and pet care stock. His now locally famous bird feed mix drew rave reviews from the start, Pat Krieger said.

"Birds have been known to turn up their beaks at the feed bought from the discount stores once they've tasted O.K.'s mix," she joked.

In 1953, the store moved a bit farther south, to East Madison. Oscar Krieger and company still sold baby chicks, but by this point local farmers brought in the supply each spring.

In 1966, Oscar Krieger asked son Ron to take over the business. A geology major, Ron Krieger had been working for the Missouri Transportation Department. His wife Pat worked for PanAm Airlines. They decided to go for it, and by 1976 Ron and Pat Krieger were moving the business (by way of a forklift and loaned truck) across the tracks to its current home on Argonne Avenue.

The old Holekamp Lumber Company owned the property before them. The Kriegers shifted retail operations in 1989 from the building on the west side to the current red barn.

For the last decade or so, full-time employee Beth Deichmann has spiffed up displays showcasing the varied plants available through spring and summer. People want organic herbs and vegetables, she said. They also want to raise chickens again as part of sustainable living, she added.

Customers can order baby chicks that come straight from the farm, just like the old days. O.K. Hatchery now sells 3,000 pounds of chicken feed a week, Ron Krieger said.

"We've thrived all these years due to good location, loyal customer base, dedicated distributors and excellent service," Ron Krieger said. "We're waiting to turn 100 before we have an actual party."