Dan & Jerry’s Greenhouse: Seeing green for 30 years
Dan Totushek and Jerry Quaal have been involved in the agriculture industry their entire lives, as both grew up working together for Dan’s father on his vegetable farm. The first greenhouse was built to grow vegetable seedlings for the field. Since there was some extra space in the greenhouse, a few flowers were planted to be sold at the Minneapolis Farmers Market.
Jerry built his first greenhouse when he was a sophomore in high school. In 1979 when Dan’s father retired and sold his farm in Eden Prairie, Dan and Jerry became partners and built their first two acres of greenhouses in Buffalo, Minnesota.
Dan & Jerry’s Greenhouse is now headquartered in Monticello, Minnesota, with locations throughout the Midwest, including Monticello and Buffalo, Minnesota, as well as Madison, South Dakota. The company has expanded from its original 2 acres to approximately 35 acres of greenhouse space.
The greenhouse employs between 65 and 300 people, depending on the season, generating $14 million annual revenue. “We got into this business to grow plants,” explains Dan. “Now it is our job to grow people who grow and market the finest quality plants and flowers to our expanding customer base.”
Farm Fresh Selects
As a full service provider, Dan & Jerry’s Greenhouse offers turnkey operations for its customers — from providing and installing garden center facility and fixtures to delivering and managing inventory and training staff members.
“We are dedicated to employing best practices and educating new employees on how to merchandise and care for the plants,” explains Dan. “Staying involved throughout the process has helped our customers to grow their sales and keeps us abreast to market fluctuations and challenges.”
Dan & Jerry’s Greenhouse provides a full line of bedding plants, including annuals, vegetables, herbs and perennials. The company also sells hanging baskets, container gardens and herb gardens, as well as mums and poinsettias.
Dan & Jerry’s Greenhouse has also established its own brand of vegetable and flower varieties called Farm Fresh Selects, which are varieties carefully selected for optimum garden performance in the north-central United States.
“Each year varieties that we sell under the Farm Fresh Select label, as well as other new varieties are trialed in our own trial garden,” explains Dan. “Varieties that underperform are removed from the program, while new varieties that perform well may be added to the program the following year. The bottom line is that we want to do everything we can to ensure that the consumer is successful with Farm Fresh Select plants.”
To remain competitive, Dan & Jerry’s Greenhouse is continually upgrading its greenhouses and facilities, focusing on producing the best quality crops as efficiently as possible. The greenhouse will be replacing 1.5 acres of ground to ground Quonset houses with a naturally ventilated gutter connected greenhouse with opening roofs. It will also employ the latest technology in hanging basket production.
Over the years, Dan & Jerry’s Greenhouse has transitioned from supplying the big-box retailers to servicing more local and regional chains, as well as independent garden centers. “Once we removed ourselves from the big-box stores, we were able to focus all of our attention on our local chains and garden centers, giving them a different look than the box stores,” explains Dan. “We also were able to offer a high level of customer service, as well as taking the risk out for our customers with our Vender Managed Inventory [VMI] program and pay by scan.”
Rising above the recession
The recession in 2009 hit the horticulture and nursery industry hard, along with many others. “In order to survive, we found it necessary to scale back a bit and focus on what we were the best at,” explains Dan. “So in 2010, we liquidated out our entire tree and shrub inventory we had been building over the years and partnered with a local nursery to handle the nursery part of the business.” As it turns out, that partnership has been a win-win for all parties involved.
Spring 2013 started to show signs of improvement and spring 2014 confirmed it with very strong sales. “While weather is still the single most important factor in driving sales in this industry, a strong and growing economy certainly helps,” says Dan.
With 30 years of experience in wholesale growing, testing and selling annual and perennial flowers, ornamental and vegetable plants, Dan & Jerry’s Greenhouse remains a leader in the Midwest gardening industry.