What started somewhat as a hobby grew into a business that has flourished for three and a half decades.
Now, after 35 years of providing top service to their gardening customers, Orville Kleinsasser and William Kost (K & K) have sold K & K Greenery, and are looking forward to having some time to take life a little easier and “smell the flowers.”
Orville Kleinsasser, originally from Huron, and Bill Kost, who grew up north of Ree Heights, got to know one another as teachers at the Miller School. Kleinsasser taught social studies and P.E., and was a wrestling coach. Kost taught junior high language arts.
“When teaching school, gardening and work with plants was a hobby during the summer,” Kost explained. “We decided to start a landscaping place, and turn it into a full-time business.”
The operation has always been in the same location, at 501 East Third Street, along Highway 14.
Two old houses were taken down, and the men erected two greenhouses on the spot. The grand opening was held Saturday, April 22, 1978, from 9 to 5:30, and Sunday, April 23, from 2 to 5 p.m. The announcement stated the new operation offered a complete line of bedding plants, trees and shrubs. They also advertised tree trimming, landscaping and spraying services.
Plans were to erect a steel building between the two greenhouses, which would house a garden center, office space and plant showing area.
They had a catchy little phrase for their advertising: “Our greenery will change your scenery.”
The new establishment faced a challenge early on. In early May, vandals made a slit in the greenhouse and sprayed the pesticide 2,4-D on the plants. Although most of the plants were saved, the tomatoes were badly damaged.
In 1979, K & K expanded to the flower shop area, offering cut flowers, bouquets, and floral wreaths. Julie Hoffman was the first person hired to operate K & K’s flower shop.
The men started a K & K Greenery in Huron (now East River Nursery), and also owned a shop in Redfield. Julie Hoffman and her husband Del now own East River Nursery, and another former employee at Redfield purchased the Redfield business.
Janice Kost says over the years they have had some 120 employees, not counting employees at Redfield or Huron shops.
Kleinsasser says many high school and college students were hired for seasonal work, as well as many other employees who were with K & K for several years. “We had a lot of good help over the years,” he commented, adding, “The women in charge of the shop were dedicated people.”
Of course spring in the peak time to sell flowers and vegetables, and seedlings have to be started in advance.
There are other peak “busy” periods…proms and weddings, for example. Some extra hours are also necessary, for instance when funeral displays must be delivered at precise times.
But, overall, the 35 years has been enjoyable, although Kleinsasser admits there have been some stressful times, too.
Bill Kost notes, “I think this business has been a valuable part of the community, and we’ve provided a needed service.”
Jill Wallace has purchased the business, and will take over July 1. “We’re fortunate she found us,” said Janice Kost.
K & K floral arranger Deb Willert will continue adding her artistic flourish.
As for the “Ks”-Janice and Bill Kost are building a home in Sioux Falls and will be moving. Bill says, “We’ll be closer to things we like to be associated with.” Janice, however, admits the change is somewhat daunting. “I’ve never moved before.”
Kleinsasser says he plans to “cut back” and have more free time. “One thing I won’t be doing is any more tree trimming,” he stated, smiling.
An open house will be held Saturday, June 29 at K & K from 2 to 4 p.m. Stop by to offer “retirement wishes” to Orville and Karen, Bill and Janice, and perhaps reminisce about the many years their “greenery” has changed your scenery.