CRETE | After mowing lawns as a kid, then running a landscaping business for 30 years, Don Rietveld was ready for the next step.
That step was opening Crete Garden Center and Landscaping five years ago when the Dyer resident bought the 40-year-old Paarlberg’s Garden Center in South Holland from its retiring owner.
“The owner told me he had someone interested in the property, and he asked me, ‘Why don’t you buy the business?’ ”Rietveld said. “All I was doing was landscaping and had never considered it. But my son, Josh, was interested and I went ahead.”
Rietveld moved Paarlberg’s stock to the Richton Road location he had bought in 1994 for his snow plowing and landscaping business. Since then, Rietveld has added a 10,000-square-foot building to house the garden center that is run by Josh Rietveld.
"The progress we've made is unbelievable," he said.
And Rietveld says the garden center and the landscaping business are an “excellent fit."
“I never realized it, but after we opened the garden center, we can install anything that anyone buys,” he said.
And using computerized landscape drawings made from photos of the client’s property, he is able to show customers what finished landscaping projects will look like when completed.
The huge garden center holds a wide variety of annuals, perennials, evergreens, deciduous trees, ornamentals, and shrubs as well as grass seed, topsoil, bagged and bulk mulch.
“We have a big selection of plants we bring in from four different nurseries in Minnesota, Ohio and Southern Illinois,” Rietveld said. “We try to buy only plants that are hardy to this area, Climate Zone 5.”
Fertilizer accounts for a large percentage of the sales. It sells almost 15 semi-trailer truckloads of fertilizer annually, Rietveld said.
“Most professional landscapers in area come to us for their fertilizer,” he said. “We’re the largest distributor in the area and are a Lebanon, Knox and Anderson fertilizer dealer.”
The business also sells agricultural chemicals to area vegetable farmers.
The Crete Garden Center has a horticulturist on staff to help customers with their selections and their problems.
“We’re big on solving the problems that people bring to us," Rietveld said. “That’s where our expertise is. Our horticulturist, Marcus Meijer, is an expert on diseases of plants and lawns and he can recommend a solution.”
Rietveld has invested roughly $1 million in the business, and hopes to recoup the money “eventually.”
The business’ location on Richton Road about a mile east of Ill. 394 isn’t well traveled and the drought in 2012 hurt sales while it increased expenses.
“Last year plants just didn’t look good,” Rietveld said. “For a $9 perennial it cost $20 in watering with labor. This year, with the cooler spring and with all the rain, the plants all look good and it seems like everyone wants to do something in their yards right now. It’s a lot more fun this year than last year. We’re doing much better.”
Plus, “plants are fun and make people happy,” he said.