Lou’s Greenhouse in Big Stone City will open its doors Friday. Haven’t shopped there? Well, you might be the only gardener who hasn’t. “From now until July, we often have 100-200 people choosing plants at one time in our greenhouses,” said owner Lou Brown. “We have 110 shopping carts and the first three weekends we’re open, people have to wait in line to get a cart. It’s not unusual for 1,200 people to stop in a day.”
People come from near and far to shop at Lou’s. “We have tons of great local customers and customers who travel from the Twin Cities and Fargo,” Brown said. “I even met a woman in Rome who had visited our greenhouse. We were on a tour together and we got to talking. She is from Wilmar but it was amazing to meet a customer in Italy.”
What’s so special about Lou’s? “People keep coming back to us every year for our great deals and wide variety,” he said.” “We have thousands of garden plants, trees, shrubs, seeds, and hanging baskets – everything you could ever need and want. Plus, we sell it all at wholesale prices.”
Petunias are the top seller according to Lou. “They are the easiest to grow and what we stock the most.” Geraniums are the next favorite and impatiens and tomatoes after that.”
Lou began digging in the dirt for fun in 1967. Two years later, he and his wife Marie began a greenhouse business with the help of a neighbor. They used a 10 foot by 16 foot chicken coop four miles from Big Stone City. The team sold out its stock early in the season and cleared a couple hundred dollars in profits.
The following year, Lou and Marie branched out on their own and moved the coop to its present location two blocks south of Highway 12 on Fourth Avenue in Big Stone City. As the business blossomed, they added on to the coop several times, before expanding the operation with a 20×40 fiberglass house. Another 80 feet of greenhouse space was added the next year. The business now occupies a full city block with 17 greenhouses filled to the brim. “I believe we have about 14,000 geraniums,” Lou said.
To maintain it’s virtual jungle, Lou’s goes through around 150,000 gallons of water per season. It also uses an average of $3,000 a month in heating and $600 a month in electricity.
The work starts long before the doors open, though. The greenhouses are set up and planting begins around February 1 each year. About half of the stock is grown locally while the other half is trucked in. Transplanting takes place from March 1 to mid-April. Marie does most of the transplanting assisted by 14 part-time workers.
Three of the Browns’ children also sport green thumbs. Daughter Julie helps her mother with transplanting, takes care of customer service, and fills in as a cashier. The couple’s oldest son, Marty, is the grower and buyer and does the ordering of plant materials and seeds. Lou and his son, Steve, tend the trees and shrubs and Steve also runs a landscaping business. Needless to say, the family doesn’t get much time to stop and smell the roses as Lou’s is open from 8-8, seven days a week including holidays until everything is sold.