MADISON, Wis. - For the past 53 years, Johannsen's Greenhouse has been a fixture along the Beltline Highway; even before there was a beltline.
Now, 60 years after the business first opened its doors, the company is about to close for good.
"We were the first business here. The Beltline was a two-lane, with gravel shoulders," said Karen Johannsen.
That was in 1959. Karen's father, Chuck Johannsen, saw the farm field at 2600 W. Beltline Highway and thought it was the perfect spot to start his greenhouse.
Turns out, it was.
"My dad never really had the vision. You know, it was a cute little business and he loved it, but he never realized what was going to happen. What my mom, by brother and sister and I did, we literally had 20 pounds of stuff in a 5-pound bag and we made it work," Johannsen said.
They sure did. The look of the place has changed over the years, but mom and sister Lynn, brother Jeff and Karen turned Johanssen's Greenhouse into what it is today.
"My brother, sister and I made this. We made something that was relevant. I feel we were the best in town," she said. "We made a place where our customers are literally standing in front of our registers crying because we're leaving."
That's right. They are leaving. The last day of business will be Aug. 4.
Pat Baxter, who owns the car dealership next door needs room to expand. He came to the Johanssen family with an offer it couldn't refuse.
"At first we said, 'Great. Yeah come back in three years, you can have our property. Life is good.' [But] He's like uh, uh. I need it now, so it was 30 sleepless nights, literally. What should we do?" Johannsen said.
Karen had hoped to keep things going for a few more years. Business is good, but another offer might not come around.Johannsen's Greenhouse to close its doors after 5 decades
"We have been scolded and it's like, 'this is going to keep my mom out of a nursing home' and it's going to allow her to live at home as long as she wants. It's going to allow my older brother and older sister to retire and it's going to make me find something new," said Johannsen.
Karen's worked at the greenhouse since the eighth grade. It's her 41st planting season, and her 41st season waiting on customers who watched her grow up.
"I had a customer explain to me, she goes, 'You know, Karen, Johannsen's is more than a place to buy my plants and buy my potting soil,' she says, 'It's an energy and I come here because I love the energy and I just like to be here.' And it's a huge thing for me and it's very emotional to know we had that kind of effect on the public. It just warms my heart," Johannsen said.
Karen's about to enter a new chapter in her life. Exactly what? She's not sure yet, but there is one thing she is sure of.
"What are you going to miss most? I'm just going to miss this place. It's like home, yeah," she said.
Johannsen's last day is Aug. 4. The family is planning a big celebration and a big sale at the greenhouse next weekend.
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