Former accountants Tracy Droessler and Jim Ducker have gone from accruals to annuals, and from ledgers to lilies, as second-year owners of Stockmen’s Greenhouse and Landscaping in Litchfield.
“I worked at a greenhouse when I was in high school, and I’ve always wanted to own one,” Droessler said. “I went to college for accounting so I would know that side of it when I owned a greenhouse.”
“And I’ve always wanted to run a business,” Ducker remarked. “And being an accountant was the perfect place to start. So here we are now.”
Their dreams became a reality last year when they purchased the 31-year-old business from Fred and Marilyn Rau.
“They were amazing,” said Droessler about the Raus. “They taught us so much. We asked so many questions, and they were always more than happy to teach us.”
“Being two accountants, we wouldn’t have bought the business if the previous owners hadn’t agreed to stay on and help us with learning how to operate the business our first year,” Ducker admitted. “And if the previous employees hadn’t come back and worked with us, we wouldn’t have been able to do this on our own.”
“We have 18 seasonal employees, including landscapers, and most of them have worked here for 10-or-more years, so their experience is invaluable,” added Ducker.
The Raus and employees coached the new owners throughout the 2017 season, teaching them the various aspects of running a greenhouse, such as ordering, planting, watering, landscape work and more.
“It’s amazing what you can learn in a year or two,” laughed Droessler. “Everyone has been so helpful.”
Rhonda Joldersma is one of those veteran employees, having worked at Stockmen’s Greenhouse for 24 years.
“They have given the greenhouse an injection of youth,” she said of Ducker and Droessler. “They have a vision to eventually expand the business, and they have really learned a lot in a short time. I think they are going to do very well.”
Stockmen’s offers a myriad of greenhouse items and services: annuals, perennials, hanging baskets, vegetables and herbs, shrubs and roses, fruit and shade trees, grasses, lawn and garden décor, metal garden art, bulk mulch and rock, landscape design and installation, and planting and trimming services. Gift cards are also available.
“All the vegetable plants and some of the herbs are grown from seed here at the greenhouse,” Ducker noted. “And everything else we transplant items that we get as plugs into larger containers. So we really have a hand in all the plants we sell here.”
And the vegetables they sell, such as tomatoes and peppers, aren’t limited to one or two varieties.
“We carry 30-35 kinds of tomatoes; seven of them being heirlooms,” said Droessler. “And we carry 20-25 varieties of pepper plants, including the really hot peppers, Carolina Reaper and Ghost peppers.”
Stockmen’s also carries 30 varieties of coleus and verbena plants, 60 varieties of petunias, and over 500 hanging baskets. In addition, the team brought back plants by popular demand, including bacopa, succulents, and a wider selection of ornamental grasses.
Bacopa is a versatile plant that can be used as a vicarious groundcover or as a trailer in containers, hanging baskets and window boxes. Bacopa plants grow quickly in warm weather and become covered in buds and blossoms.
Succulents are the perfect plant for forgetful gardeners. They are easy to care for, and succulent gardens and terrariums can brighten any indoor space.
“We like to get feedback from our customers and bring in plants based on their requests,” said Droessler.
“(Tracy and Jim) are very accommodating for new stock,” said Joni Book, of Litchfield, a volunteer who beautifies Litchfield with her planting skills by Lake Ripley outside of town. She is also a longtime customer at Stockmen’s. “If they don’t have it, they will get it for you. That’s a big plus to those of us who plant because we like new things each year. They are also so friendly and helpful and they make you feel welcome the minute you walk in the door. I’m really happy they bought the place because we need a nursery in Litchfield.”
Stockmen’s also designs planters.
“If you bring us your planter or hanging basket, we will make it beautiful for you,” said Droessler. “We will custom design hanging baskets for our customers in the spring, fall and at Christmas time.”
For many years, Stockmen’s has been helping people decorate the graves of loved ones with their cemetery planter program. With this program, Stockmen’s plants a planter each spring and delivers them to each person’s grave a few days before Memorial Day. As fall approaches, Stockmen’s goes to each grave and picks up the planter and stores it until the following spring when they plant it again.
“It’s a great service for folks who are out of town or unable to get to the cemetery regularly,” said Droessler.
Growing and selling plants isn’t the only thing Stockmen’s Greenhouse is noted for. They also carry impressive metal garden art pieces that were brought in from South Dakota that are for sale and stationed throughout the greenhouse.
Because of the reputation and quality care the employees at Stockmen’s Greenhouse provide, customers regularly travel from as far away as the Twins Cities area to buy their plants and gardening supplies.
“For a small community, they are a gem,” said Patrick Raiber, of Litchfield. “You can get what you want (at Stockmen’s) and they are dedicated to a small town, even though they both moved here from a large community. If they don’t know something you ask about, they will find out for you. And their service with a smile is something I appreciate.”
Ducker grew up in Webster, South Dakota, and was working as an auditor at AgriBank in St. Paul when he met Droessler, who was working there as a business consultant. They have been together ever since.
“We learned Stockmen’s was for sale on Google,” Droessler said. “We both were ready for a change and excited to move to Litchfield.”
“And for 20 years, people have known Tracy has wanted to own a greenhouse, so we decided to buy this place and move here,” Ducker added.
Droessler is a native of Dubuque, Iowa, which is only 20 miles from Dyersville, famous for the baseball field used in the Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams.
“This is my field of dreams,” Droessler said about the greenhouse she and Ducker now own.
Stockmen’s Greenhouse and Landscaping is open seven days a week from late April until Memorial Day; Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The normal store hours after that will be Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and they are closed Sunday and Monday.