After 25-plus years, Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse in Delaware, Ohio, has closed its retail store to focus solely on its fundraising business.
President and founder Mark Foertmeyer says they made the decision to begin winding down retail operations about a year ago.
“It’s a bittersweet decision,” Foertmeyer says. “We had some nice customers. It was easy from a business standpoint, but emotionally it was difficult.”
The greenhouse posted the following statement on its Facebook page and website:
“We made the difficult decision to permanently close our retail store. We would like to thank our customers for 25-plus years of loyalty and friendship. We are so thankful for your support throughout the years. This change, although difficult, is due to the fact that we have greater positive impact in many local communities, state-wide with our fundraising programs.”
According to the post, Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse has helped raise nearly $40 million for schools and other community groups since 1988 through its plant fundraising programs, which they offer in spring, fall and during the holidays.
“When we did the math, it was pretty shocking to us that we had reached those numbers,” Foertmeyer says. “This is our 31st year doing school fundraisers, and it’s always been the core of our business. We are finally coming to a place where it’s our complete focus. … The store is not closing because we failed, we just needed to shift our focus 100 percent on what we do best.”
Foertmeyer & Son's Greenhouse, photographed in June 2013. Michelle Simakis
When Foertmeyer started the business, he did not intend on having a retail segment, but the store grew organically as people driving by stopped in and wanted to buy plants.
ALSO READ: A man with a mission: Mark Foertmeyer of Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse Co. strives to lead the horticulture industry into the next generation.
Foertmeyer, a 2017 Horticultural Industries Leadership Awards recipient, has been working with the nonprofit, Columbus, Ohio-based group Autism Power, which helps adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder gain meaningful employment. One of the reasons Foertmeyer decided to keep the retail division open in 2018 was to ease the transition for employees who were working through Autism Power. Foertmeyer is still partnering with the organization, hiring people to work in the growing operations, which are expanding.
“We’re building another 50,000 sq. ft. to help meet the demand, and then we are also developing a 15-acre site up the road, which will probably take a couple of years to develop,” Foertmeyer says, adding that the new site will be covered operations. The current location includes about 7 acres of production, with 3.5 to 4 acres covered, he says.
Foertmeyer offers poinsettias, petunias, calibrachoas, hanging baskets, edibles and more through its seasonal fundraising programs. Fall is the most profitable, and one of the star products is the company’s Fall Mumkins – mums planted in Halloween-themed decorative pots.
Foertmeyer began working with partner growers about four years ago and is hoping to expand and establish a network.
“Our hope is that as we develop our business, that we will be able to open some opportunities for other growers and provide the marketing and the sales support to the schools and have a network of partner growers,” he says. “We’re doing that already on a smaller scale.”
The company also recently introduced online ordering for group fundraisers, which it has been developing during the past three years and launched this past fall. The website allows people to order online and has resources, such as instructional videos and plant tips.
“We have the ability now to effectively reach that younger generation, because we work primarily with elementary schools. There are a lot of kids that we can help develop an appreciation and comfort growing plants,” Foertmeyer says. “These young kids also have young parents who are the ‘mysterious Millennials,’ who are really just people. But I think we can help them be more comfortable with plants … and make a contribution to our industry.”
Associate Editor Giovanni Castelli contributed to this story.