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Business Spotlight: The Green House

I am not sure I know how to write about The Green House without it turning into something sentimental. I used to daydream about owning a greenhouse. It was my "someday dream" for a time when our kids were raised, when we had more freedom and our financial responsibilities were less burdening. I worked at a small greenhouse in high school and was a florist for a few years in my 20s. After that, I had earned an established position traveling and working with automotive service departments. My husband, Kyle, became a talented technician with killer electrical skills.

But, after 11 years in that field, it was time for a change. I realized it wasn't enough to run from things I was unhappy with and that I needed to go after the things I wanted.

It's funny to me that when I stumbled upon the ghost listing for The Green House sale, its name was unlisted. "The Green House" is such a simple and great name. It goes beyond effective search engine optimization. Green is a color that symbolizes so much. Green traditionally has represented growth, jealousy and money. In some ways, green represents our inexperience. In the automotive industry, things are made to click together like puzzle pieces. Now? We don't make them, we grow them. Horticulture is a blend of art and science.

For us this year, green has become the color of new beginnings.

The business has been owned by three families, the Snyders, the Fahrenholzes and now us, the Bergherrs.

Last year I spent time with Jim and Shirley Fahrenholz. They purchased Snyder's Green House in 1986.

Jim had worked for Bachman's and other greenhouses before deciding he was best off owning his own business. I can personally cosign on this belief; I cannot imagine Jim working for anyone but himself. Their new beginning required a move back from Colorado and owning something they could call their own. He focused on the greenhouse's reputation through quality plants. He tolerated giving up perfectly good growing space for what he charmingly referred to as "sparkly alligators," what we call garden decorations.

Shirley connected with the customers, putting down deep community roots with her work in the Boy Scouts and other activities. For them, green represented prosperity. They grew the greenhouse to its current size of 50,000 square feet, with multiple locations. As eager as Shirley was to retire, I know handing over the keys was like handing over a piece of them. They were The Green House.

I know I didn't go in chronological order, as Dick and Pearl Snyder were the original owners of what is The Green House today, but I saved them for last for a reason. Recently, their sons, Bruce and Bob Snyder, came to visit us. Walking the aisles between the concrete tables they poured as teens was a bit overwhelming for them. Their parents' new beginning was to be a move from New York to Alaska; the story was that Carlton was as far as they made it.

Listening to their stories, I feel like I know their family. Dick and Pearl had a long-lasting and balanced marriage. I imagine the color green was nurturing for Pearl, as a young mother raising her children. For Dick, green would have been energizing. He had a natural eye for business and kept a detailed handwritten ledger and ticketing system. They raised Easter lilies, fall mums, poinsettias, and rubber trees, all supplied to their Ben Franklin in Cloquet.

My hope for Bruce and Bob Snyder is that green will be healing. I could tell how much they miss and respected their parents - how, maybe, there is a bit of regret letting Snyder's Greenhouse leave their family. I hope their coming back and being a part of its existence now will bring joy to their memories.

As for the Bergherrs, we have decided the green in our house will be a verb. We will continue to "green" our community. We will host monthly classes, support community gardening, and provide fundraising opportunities. You have our commitment to continue the tradition for growing our product instead of shipping in from metro areas.

This time of year, many people call to ask when we're opening. The truth is, we never closed. All year long there is something growing here.

We still hear, "I have lived here all my life and didn't know this place existed." I bet next time you tell someone you are going to The Green House, they will follow up with, "Which one?" You can smile knowing you are part of Carlton's best-kept secret.

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