Jeff Green | Apr 23, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - April 23, 2009 A new business is blooming in Harrowsmithby Julie Druker
Robin and Shawn Closs at their temporary greenhouse in Harrowsmith
Shawn Closs returned to Harrowsmith, his home town, after 30 years away and brought along his wife of 19 years, Robin. The couple also brought with them their love of growing and selling plants, flowers and vegetables.
Together they purchased a 3.7 acre parcel of land on the west side of Road 38 just south of Nellie’s Gas Bar, the OLCO station in Harrowsmith, and, according to Robin, as of April 21, it will be a done deal.
They plan to have their new undertaking, “Blooms and Blossoms”, open for business no later than the May 24 long weekend. The business will eventually have a retail store, greenhouses, and a garden depot. Products for sale will include organically grown plants, herbs and vegetables, flowers, trees, shrubs and various garden tools and accessories. Various types of garden fill such as sand, gravel, soil, mulch and compost will be available for purchase.
They have grown many of their products themselves; 90% are grown from seed and 10% from cuttings.
Robin also plans to have a "Do It Yourself" area on site where customers can get creative and assemble plants they’ve purchased either into own pots or purchased pots.
At the site construction work has already begun. Vehicles are leveling the driveway. Sod has been removed on a large tract of land to make room for the greenhouses. There will be five greenhouses in total that together will cover roughly 11,000 square feet.
The land was purchased form Larry and Kevin Redden of Larkin Farms. A well has been dug and the Closses are hoping to begin erecting the greenhouses soon after April 21. They had a similar type of business in Stettler, Alberta, for eight years prior to their move back to Harrowsmith and according to them it began originally as a hobby.
Shawn explained, “We had no desire at all to sell flowers. We bought a greenhouse for ourselves. The first year we sold 1500 flowers when we had no desire to sell one. Seven years later we were up to 100,000 flowers and 1000 hanging baskets. That's how quick our hobby took off.”
Robin added, “We started with a little 12’x 24’ hobby greenhouse and by our 8th year we had four”.
The couple is living now in Harrowsmith with Shawn’s mother, Bea Closs. They have set up a temporary greenhouse at her home while construction continues at the new business site.
Robin explained, “We also came home to help look after Bea, who is 87. We’d been gone a long time so we decided to sell our home and business and move out here and start the business out here.”
Robin and Shawn have their work cut out for them; Robin says that by next week 100,000 flowers have to be transplanted into pots, urns, hanging baskets and individual 4-packs.
The two are working alone right now and getting help from their family but plan to hire a local staff. They also plan to be open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and will remain open through the winter months.
Both are confident that business will be good for them and they have made a considerable investment. Robin says, “We know that roughly 13,000 vehicles pass by our business each day and estimate that approximately 200 will stop in”.
Asked if they feel they will pose competition to other greenhouse growers and sellers in the area Robin believes there is plenty of business to go around. “We don’t really consider ourselves competition…Out west there were about 10 greenhouse businesses that served roughly 6500-10,000 people and everyone managed to have a nice business.”
The couple is excited about the longer growing season here, which they believe to be at least one month longer than it was in Alberta. Robin stated that five out of eight Mother’s Days in Alberta were snow laden and it was not unheard of for there to be snow late into May.
Robin brought to my attention the recent delivery of “proven winners“ that were just dropped off and are stacked in Bea’s front yard: a selection of petunias, begonias, zinnias and ipomeas.
Robin and Shawn seem unfazed by the amount of work that lies ahead. Robin says, “We love to grow. There’s nothing better than taking a seed and growing and planting it and watching it grow and giving it to someone to take home”.