Business is blooming at Gathje's in northwest WI
HIXTON - Business is booming this at Gathje's Greenhouse. The small family-owned business just outside of the village of Hixton along the Trempealeau River in Jackson County, is holiday central at this time of year.
The greenhouse is ablaze with hundreds of abundant poinsettia blooms of different colors and sizes. Holiday shoppers can take in the beautiful display and purchase their traditional holiday plants now through Christmas day.
Jim and Joan Gathje have owned and run the business since 1999, along with help of some part-time employees, and their daughter, Mandy, and granddaughters, Madelyn and Olivia Koprek.
The business was originally started in 1978 by Richard and Helen Gathje, Jim's parents. Richard, a construction worker/home builder, decided to try his hand at the gardening trade when construction slowed down and interest rates went up in the mid 70's.
He built his own greenhouse, and he and his wife taught themselves the business. The rest, as they say, is history.
Long before the first flower blooms, the family is busy planting 75,000 root cuttings for spring sales, starting around January 1. And by the time the greenhouse opens in the spring, about 1 million plants — annuals and perennials — will be available to customers who usually come from within a 75 mile radius to shop.
The Gathje's say they have also had customers from Minnesota, Illinois, and as far away as California.
The greenhouse switches gears in mid-summer when a shipment of rooted poinsettia cuttings arrives at the greenhouse. The tender plants needed to be planted around August 1 to ensure the lovely blooms will be ready for the holidays.
Each armed with a planting machine, Jim and Joan, fill all the pots themselves. Around 60% of the poinsettias they grow are wholesaled out to shops. The rest are scooped up by discerning shoppers who come from miles around for the best of the best in poinsettias. Word of mouth is their best advertising, and most customers come back often.
Jim advises customers to make sure the poinsettia they intend to buy looks "perky", meaning the leaves shouldn't droop. Healthy leaves means the plant is happy, he says. Poinsettias do not like drafts, heat registers, or to be over watered. Even temperatures and even moisture is best.
Varieties of the holiday blooms these days are easier to grow and there are more novelty colors than before — red, pinks, white, variegated and more.
The Gathje's have a no nonsense approach to their business. They offer good quality plants at a good price, so they prefer a "no sales" policy, and this has always worked for them.
The Gathje's held their annual holiday open house on Nov. 25 with treats and a drawing. The business is located at N9514 County Rd FF, Hixton, WI and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday thru Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday (up until Dec. 24). For more information call 715-963-3909.