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Family Roots Greenhouse – rooted in family, friends and plants

The 77-year-old Marshfield greenhouse blooms anew with new owners

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May 13, 2024

MARSHFIELD – Spring has sprung and so has a new adventure for the Waechter family, who for the first time, opened Family Roots Greenhouse in Marshfield.

Chad and Kristen Waechter said it’s a new world for them and their two daughters, Elsie and Adeline.

The family purchased the former owner’s homestead in fall, and it came with a greenhouse operation dating back to 1947.  

A bit of history

Though the Waechters are new to the property, a greenhouse business is not.

Matt and Marion Britten established the family-owned business at 7950 County Road H in Marshfield – formerly known as Britten’s Greenhouse – many decades ago.

The couple ran it until one of their seven daughters, Ellen Britten-Karow, and her husband, Keith Karow, rented the business from 1980-83.

The Karows bought the business in 1983 when Matt and Marion Britten retired. 

The Karows continued to support green thumbs throughout Central Wisconsin before deciding to retire and sell the business in fall 2023. 

In came the Waechters. 

A fresh start

Kristen said what attracted them to the property was the Britten family homestead.

“I fell in love with the house, and the greenhouse was a bonus,” she said.

Fortunately, Chad said, plants, flowers and other aspects of gardening weren’t completely new to them.

He said he has always had an interest in gardening, including taking coursework on greenhouse management years ago.

And though his career has included working in construction and Kristen, in social work, the duo said they thought owning and operating a greenhouse was something they could do. 

“The opportunity was there, and we had access to mentors, and we said, ‘why not?’ Chad said. “It gets our kids working with us, and we can leave something for them in the future.”

The greenhouse operation, Chad said, features a triple greenhouse and two auxiliary greenhouses for a total of five greenhouses.

Upon buying the property, the Waechters said it was a mad dash to prepare for the following spring.

“We were in a dead run to find vendors, get credit, secure insurance… we’re lucky we even opened because we had a lot to get done,” he said. “The (vendor) shows start as soon as one season ends, and that’s when pricing comes out and people start planning orders. We didn’t seed any products this year because of timing, but we will next year.”

Instead, the Waechters said they placed orders for a large variety of annual flowering plants and non-flowering plants and a select variety of vegetables and herbs.

“We’ve got everything from large proven winners to four packs of cells of marigolds – it runs the gamut,” Chad said. 

Kristen said the greenhouse welcomes custom orders, whether that’s custom pots or hanging baskets – something she said Britten’s Greenhouse also did during Ellen and Keith Karow’s tenure.

Kristen said she does the majority of the custom order creation, working with everything from standard-size hanging baskets, to woven bark comb baskets, to moss baskets, to a variety of custom planting using items she thrifts.

“I thrift and find fun things to use for planters – we do purse planters, coffee cup planters – anything cool and unique,” she said. “We also do custom planting in items customers bring in and can do small quantities to hundreds if we can secure enough flowers for them.”

In addition, Kristen said the greenhouse offers an assortment of fun garden decor to complement the planters and flowers.

All flower arrangements, she said, feature hand-picked flowers and are hand-planted in the greenhouse.

Kristen said she appreciates Ellen Karow’s mentorship in helping her learn a new craft, in addition to watching numerous YouTube videos on the topic. 

The Waechters said the greenhouse’s goal is that it’s a fun destination that is welcoming to all. 

“You can’t help but smile when you come in,” Chad said. “If you’re in a bad mood, come in and walk around because you can’t stay that way. We want everyone to experience it whether you want an expensive planter, a knick-knack or cat grass. We grow it for fun, and half the time, we give it to kids because kids should have plans, and I remember doing that with my mom.”

The couple said their daughters have chimed in on business operations, wanting to host a coloring contest and help place little resin ducks around the greenhouse.

If a customer finds one of the ducks, Chad said, they can receive a tube of gumballs or some modeling clay as a prize.

“We want everyone to have fun here while we bring our children into the business and make this a family-friendly place,” he said. 

Getting their hands dirty

The Waechters said it’s been a newfound labor of love, and one that entails some long days – especially since Chad continues to work full-time for a commercial automation company and Kristen as a full-time social worker.

Grandma, Grandpa and friends pitch in occasionally, which Kristen said is why family is in the greenhouse’s name.

“We’re the face of the business, and anything you take out of here has been touched by our hands,” she said. “Our name fits us well.”

And though Chad has experience working with his dad’s commercial business, the couple said they came into the retail industry as novices – and has already thrown them some curveballs.

This included dealing with no power in the majority of the greenhouse area when a truck hit the power lines and cut power for two weeks.

“The greenhouse proper was down, the inflatable walls were down,” Chad said. “Luckily, this was around the time of our first delivery and it was soil, so we didn’t lose any live plants. They came five days later, fortunately.”

The couple said they have been ntentional about securing high-quality inventory from reputable companies so they can uphold the Britten’s reputation.

This season, the Waechters said they focused on annuals, some vegetables, a few tropical plants and succulents.

The couple said they anticipate broadening their offerings next year as they’ll have a longer running start before the season, as well as potentially serving businesses.

For this opening season, Chad said the only businesses featuring their planters are the ones who purchased them in addition to the plants and flowers for their homes.

“Our focus is on annuals because it will make our season a bit shorter, and that means more time with our kids,” he said. “It’s important that Family Roots not take away from the family in our name.”

To that end, the Waechters said the greenhouse is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

Getting the word out

Chad said the regulars patronizing the former Britten’s Greenhouse have found their way to Family Roots Greenhouse – thanks in part to social media.

“Overall, there’s been a lot of word of mouth and face-to-face conversations,” he said. “We have friends who own businesses, and we hand out a card and encourage people to come see us. And it helps we live on a county highway with a big banner outside for the greenhouse.”

The couple said it’s not unusual for Marshfield residents to “make the rounds” to area greenhouses, including several Amish-owned greenhouses, to stock up for the season.

In addition, the greenhouse has drawn customers from Wausau, where Kristen grew up, as well as Stevens Point, where Chad grew up.

“We’re pulling (clients) from a large area,” he said. 

Supportive neighbors

The transition of greenhouse ownership, Chad said, has only been aided by Ellen Karow’s willingness to provide mentorship, as well as her accessibility.

The Britten family originally owned 40 acres, allotting 10 acres to the original house and business.

Today, the house originally Ellen Karow’s parents’ retirement home on the remaining 30 acres is now hers and Keith’s home – and a short walk away from the greenhouse.

“Ellen has been wonderful, starting as a neighbor who’s turned into almost an aunt to the kids and making sure we’re OK,” Chad said. 

The Waechters said they’ve been darn near bowled over by the positive response they’ve received as the new owners of the greenhouse as they carry on the tradition. 

“There is an original greenhouse structure on the property that isn’t used for that anymore, but it’s still standing, and I want to use it for something,” Chad said. “There  is a unique history here and we want to preserve it.”

For more, check out Family Roots Greenhouse on Facebook.

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