Business of the Week: Down to Earth Greenhouse and Landscaping
Wausau Pilot & Review
Editor’s note: Business of the week is a sponsored feature that tells the stories of local and operated businesses in the Wausau area, highlighting the products and services they offer and the ways in which they add to the unique tastes of the metropolitan area. Learn how to showcase your business by emailing email@example.com.
The down-to-earth greenhouse has a wide variety of fantastic plants, shrubs, trees and supplies. Photo: Christina Kimball / Wausau Pilot & Review
This week’s main business is a locally owned and operated greenhouse that also provides bespoke landscaping services. Over the years, the business grew from simple packets of seeds on a dining table to a sprawling operation with a 25,000 square foot greenhouse. Visitors to the Down to Earth Greenhouse are immersed in natural beauty – from adorable tiny fairy tale gardens to a delicious selection of vegetables and herbs to a multitude of trees that can add lush shade and color to any garden. Executive member Micki Luebbe, who runs the business with her husband Cris, said each plant variety was carefully selected to ensure the gardens thrive in Wisconsin’s cooler climates. Here Micki tells the story of how Down to Earth began and grew, how the business overcame challenges like the catastrophic collapse of two greenhouses and her hopes for the future of this gem from the Wausau region.
Q: When was your company founded and what made you start?
A: Down to Earth Greenhouse was founded about 20 years ago by our friend Steve Laufenberg and his wife. We’ve seen Down to Earth grow from packets of seeds on their dining room table to the large nursery it is today. About five years ago, Steve wanted to sell his business and move closer to the family. We were looking for a company that suits us and our personality well. We met up with Steve and checked out the pros and cons of the deal and decided to take the plunge and buy it. Steve stayed in season one and got us off to a great start. We have learned so much and grown so much in the past five years.
Q: How did you choose the name of your company? What are you trying to convey?
A: We did not choose the name of the company. However, we chose to keep it because it represents us so well. We love the name because it conveys what the business is and who we are. Planting and growing is also such an important part of our relationship with the earth.
Q: Tell us about your business. What products or services do you offer?
A: We are a locally owned and run family business. We both grew up in the area and are proud to be members of this vibrant community! We have four large greenhouses to explore. In two greenhouses we keep annuals together with hanging baskets. We have another greenhouse for perennials that we replenish throughout the season. Our fourth greenhouse is entirely dedicated to fruit, herbs and vegetables. We also have a wide variety of trees and shrubs, as well as garden art, concrete statues, fountains and fairytale gardens.
Q: What makes your company unique?
A: For one thing, we are very special about our plants. We want to make sure our customers get the best quality plants with strong root systems so they can have a great planting experience. When plants are in our nursery, they are looked after and cared for by experienced greenhouse employees. We also place special emphasis on sourcing plants that are suitable for our zone. We don’t keep crops that can’t survive in Wisconsin during the winter, and we only buy our inventory from suppliers who have grown crops in the Midwest to make sure they’re hardy. A plant that grows in a warm or tropical environment is exposed to cold shock when exposed to frost or frost. With our unpredictable spring weather, it’s important to have plants that can handle the temperature change!
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: To be honest, you can make it through five years in business! I’ve heard the statistic that most companies fail within the first five years. Our banker assured us that if we exceeded the five-year limit and saw positive improvements in our business results, our chances of survival in business would be vastly improved. We have learned so much and expanded our understanding of how to run the business, face challenges, and identify opportunities when they arise.
Q: How have you changed and developed over time? What is different now than at the beginning?
A: I think not much has changed dramatically since the store was first purchased. The greenhouse was well established and there wasn’t much that could be changed or improved. We are slowly making incremental improvements to the property and have some new things planned for the next five years.
Q: What challenges did you face? Basically, if you had to do it all over, would you do anything differently?
A: Our biggest challenge so far has been the loss of greenhouses in late 2019. They collapsed under a load of snow / ice that destroyed two of our 180 foot greenhouses. I cried when I saw them fall to the ground. We were very fortunate to have knowledgeable and supportive people to help us manage the construction on time. Spring 2020 was so unpredictable that we didn’t know what to expect! We just went on and started planting, not knowing if we would have the greenhouses ready in time for the flowers or when we could open due to COVID. We adjusted expectations, took precautions, and established social distancing. We had new greenhouses by the time we opened in May. I don’t know that we would do anything differently. Doing business with your spouse isn’t always easy, but we’ve learned that temporary situations don’t affect our relationship. This brought us closer and we learned how much we complement each other’s strengths as business partners.
Q: What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
A: We take one step at a time every day and we are blessed to have a business that people enjoy. When people visit our greenhouse, they smile and are happy, which makes us happy. I don’t know what else you could want! This business has deepened our faith and we trust that God will bring us to and through whatever happens in the next 5, 10 or 20 years.
Down-to-earth greenhouse and landscaping
6104 N. 52nd Ave. – Wausau, WI 54401
Visit the Down to Earth website here. Find them here on Facebook.