As the sun peeks out and the thermometer rises toward 60 degrees, we shove that dreadful ice storm to the back of our minds and continue to think SPRING! And along with spring comes with the fantasy of tilling up your soil, rustling around in your raised beds and flipping through endless seed catalogs dreaming of your new lawn and garden endeavors.
The place to go in the Gays Mills area to fulfill all of your spring dreams for the last 32 years has been the Village Greenhouse.
Back in the 80s, the current proprietor of the shop, Joe Brandt, was working at Carl Zimpel’s IGA Store. It just a couple of doors down from current location of the Village Greenhouse at 215 Main Street, where his father-in-law owned a variety store. One year, he decided to add a greenhouse to their variety store.
“Me being two doors down and being observant I saw that when they put those plants out in May people were just eating them up,” said Brandt. That gave him an idea, his in-laws decided to leave the variety store business and he and his former wife, Stephanie, decided to go for it.
“It was a completely insane leap of faith,” Brandt said with a familiar laugh. “I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but we saw people grooving on the plants, so we went for it.”
The Brandt’s took over the space in 1984, with their young children in tow, tearing down and starting fresh with the first little shop that would be known as the Village Greenhouse.
“We started out with one small greenhouse and a year later moved to adding cut flowers,” Brandt explained. “That first year we just called up Indian Hollow greenhouse and told them to load up a truck with plants and bring it down to us, we bought everything, we certainly were not garden nuts, but we could appreciate it. We had no idea what we were doing, those first few years were rough, but we made it.”
The Brandts continued to toil away at the plant business throughout the years, reading many books, asking questions and shaking nearly everyone they knew down for some information about how to grow bigger, better and more beautiful plants to provide to the people of the community.
“It’s all completely transformed,” Brandt said of the current operation. “We buy nothing already started. We start all of our own plants in three separate green houses.”
In 2003, the Village Greenhouse suffered a serious fire that left the building and one of its greenhouses in shambles.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” Brandt said. “It opened up so many opportunities for change that was needed, we were able to build a walk-in cooler, cathedral ceilings, add art work and a more open and welcoming space for people to come into.”
The space is certainly pleasant as you walk into the store greeted by music, color, photos and art. Of course, there’s also a large variety of houseplants, cut flowers and gift items, before you even make it to the doors that lead you to the greenhouses.
The greenhouses, two of which are on site and one is located at a friend’s farm, house a vast variety of plants, including 25 different tomatoes, 500 flowering baskets, and every other vegetable, herb, or flowering landscaping delight a person could need.
“We do everything but trees,” Brandt said. “And every year, we do something new, we have our good old tried-and-true items, but we have new stuff too, like this year we have red milkweed for the monarchs and of course all the good funky stuff.”
In the fall when all of the plants have gone away for the season, the two onsite green houses fill up with a eclectic mix of antiques, collectables and junk. Something Brandt pointed out was a big hit with shoppers.
“People just love it!” he said of ongoing months long flea-market in the greenhouses in fall.
The greenhouse business also allows Brandt the opportunity to work with his daughter regularly.
“Jessica is my left arm, I don’t know what I’d do without her, or any of my other great employees,” Brandt said. He also noted the deep gratitude the greenhouse has for the community for their years of ongoing support. Although many outdoor plants will not be completely ready to go until May, it’s always worth it to stop by and breathe in some of the tropical air of the greenhouses, enjoy the growing and cut flowers, and get a little fix of spring on Main Street in Gays Mills.