Plant Garden Center to open May 12
BY TINA L. SCOTT
Plant Garden Center, located at 1003 S. Center Ave. in Merrill, will open to the public for retail sales at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, May 12, 2023. They will be open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. until they are sold out for the season.
[Long-time residents of Merrill will remember the location as the home of the former Club Modern restaurant and bar which was located on the property from the 1930’s until they closed in 2012/2013 and the building was demolished in 2016.]
Area residents have been waiting and watching since excavation work and building of the new greenhouses on the property first began last July to learn what is happening with the property and the new business. In the midst of the chaos of getting ready to open, owner Hollie Stoerzer, took a few minutes to talk about her new business, Plant Garden Center.
“We are primarily a wholesale grower,” Stoerzer said.
Stoerzer said she grows flowers and plants for wholesale customers–such as other greenhouses and retail outlets and landscapers.
Initially she had planned that all of her business for 2023 would be wholesale, she said, with retail sales to begin in 2024. So the vast majority of the plants currently in the greenhouses are already sold and are in the process of being delivered to her wholesale customers.
However, due to growing more inventory than originally planned, she is able to open this Friday to offer some vegetables, herbs, flowers, and hanging plants to the public in 2023, a year earlier than planned. So 2023 will be a year with about 80% of her plants being grown and sold wholesale, with about 20% being available for retail sale beginning this Friday.
That change in plans has made things all the more chaotic and busy this spring, however, and she wants new retail customers to know it won’t always be this way. Next year she will be able to segregate her plantings a bit better, separating which greenhouses will be exclusively open to the public for retail sales. This year there will be some plantings marked as already sold amidst the flowers available for retail purchase.
Because she is primarily a wholesale grower, however, retail sales for the available plants when she opens on Friday will be made in quantities of full flats or half flats, mix and match the plants, and not as individual plants, Stoerzer said. So buyers should be prepared to buy in bulk. A full flat is 18 plants and a half flat is 9 plants, she said.
How this new business came to be
Stoerzer worked for many years providing lawn care services, she said, but she was ready for a change, and she had always dreamed of owning a business like this. When she got the opportunity to buy out an existing grower, Avalon Farms of Marathon, the timing was perfect and the idea for this new business was born. Avalon Farms owners, Randy and Kathy Jaeger, have helped Stoerzer make the transition as part of her buying out their growing business.
Stoerzer purchased the land in May 2022, began excavation work in July, and construction of the greenhouses and retail store started in September. It’s been a whirlwind of activity, a lot to learn in a short timeframe, and a lot of chaos, especially recently, Stoerzer said. In addition to getting ready to open for retail customers, she and her team of employees have been caring for all of the plants and making daily deliveries of plants to their wholesale customers.
And Stoerzer has been hands-on every step of the way in building this business. “I personally checked and tightened every screw and nut in those greenhouses,” she said, referring to the five large greenhouses on the property. “Then I applied the silver tape,” she said. She wanted to take every precaution to ensure she wouldn’t end up with holes or cuts in the greenhouse plastic when it was stretched over the framework.
In the retail store building, Stoerzer said she helped measure and cut the rough cut lumber that covers the interior walls, creating a cozy rustic atmosphere within. She also helped prepare the corrugated tin on the lower walls that she sourced from Rice Antiques in Wausau before they went out of business. She has a vision for the interior of the retail store building, but that will come in time, she said. This is just the beginning of what she has in mind.
When asked how long it took to complete the building process on the property, Stoerzer said, “Oh, it’s not finished. That won’t be for another few years.”
This is just the start, she explained.
Stoerzer plans to erect a large warehouse on the property yet, and she plans to add patio areas in front of the retail store and possibly around some of the greenhouses. Then she will introduce additional product lines, to include statuary and other outdoor and gardening features and decor. “Think of it like Stoney Creek in Minocqua,” she said, “but on a smaller scale. It will be similar.”
This year’s representation is just a little peek at what the business will be for 2024 and in the years to come, Stoerzer said. And admittedly, she added, it will be a bit disorganized this year, as they’ve done a lot in a very short time, with challenges along the way.
This spring’s weather was one such challenge, Stoerzer said. “Two months of overcast skies has been very challenging for growing.”
Stoerzer said she has been working at the Plant Garden Center every day for months and months, putting in 13-hour days.
When asked why she chose Merrill as the location for her new business, Stoerzer was quick to respond that the location was just perfect for her vision. “I live just five minutes from here,” she said. Stoerzer has lived in the Town of Pine River for the last 12 years.
The adjoining properties on either side are zoned commercial, so that enables her to maximize her use of the property, as well, she said. There are a lot of positives.
When she later learned she was eligible to apply for some grants the City of Merrill offered for business development, after she had already purchased the property and begun development, that was an added perk to building in Merrill, Stoerzer said. The $30,000 grant from the City of Merrill was definitely a benefit. Grant funds are distributed at various stages as construction is completed, she explained. Stoerzer has received $20,000 of the grant funds so far and will receive the remaining $10,000 after the completion of the warehouse.
Stoerzer is excited about the Plant Garden Center and becoming a part of the Merrill business community.
Side note: Avalon Farms provided the hanging flower baskets for the City of Merrill’s hanging flower basket project, so this year Stoerzer grew the flowers for the hanging flower baskets to go on the light poles in the business districts in Merrill. Stoerzer is hopeful residents will enjoy this year’s blossoms and she can continue to grow flowers for Merrill right here within the city limits for many years to come.