Christine and Kevin Jessen owned Forest and Floral Garden Center for 27 years, only its third owners since its inception in 1959.
The era ended on April 28 when they sold the 701 Fair Ave business. to Erik and Jenna Lageson.
The Jessens bought Forest and Floral from Don and Toni James in 1995, after Kevin worked there during the summer. When the Jameses decided to sell, Kevin jumped at the opportunity, Chris said during a recent interview with the two couples.
Starting with a small store that is now an employee break room and 50 feet of greenhouse, the Jessens have added a new store, a quonset hut, four greenhouses and lots of internet and social media knowledge.
“Business has changed,” Kevin said. “We grow a lot less field and a lot more culture in containers, on the beds at the back. We have 11 acres here. We use it in different ways. Erik already has changes underway.
The Jessens also raised two children in a home on site. An employee will now live there, taking care of the garden centre, since the Lagesons have recently built their own house.
Prior to the Jessens’ 27-year run, the Jameses also owned Forest and Floral for over 20 years, as did founding owners Art and Ada Moehlman.
Kevin expressed hope that Erik and Jenna will keep the shop open for at least 28 years, “so they beat us.”
Erik also owns and operates Minnesota Diversified Services, a 10-employee landscaping business, which he plans to move into the garden center whose seven employees have agreed to stay.
Jenna’s work experience is primarily in the healthcare field, most recently as a registration clerk at CHI St. Joseph’s Health in Park Rapids. The couple have two children, aged 9 and almost 4.
“They will definitely learn to weed,” Erik said.
“Cycling through the greenhouse,” added Jenna.
“Yeah, I think that was day one,” Erik said. “It’s going to be an adventure.”
Erik also worked at Forest and Floral, from the age of 14, and was friends with the Jessens’ growing son. So, he grew up running on the property. Later, he worked for an excavation company and then in construction before starting his own business.
“Erik had already said he was going to buy the place,” Kevin admitted. “We just didn’t take it seriously.”
“I think it’s about time,” Chris said, reflecting that ABC Preschool’s latest touring band included children’s children in their early tours.
When the Jessens decided to start looking for an exit, they listed the property with Affinity Real Estate, expecting it to take three or four years to sell. Instead, it sold out right away.
“It was great working with Jack (Brann),” Chris said of Affinity’s broker. “It was a very good, smooth transaction.”
However, Kevin said: “It happened a little faster than expected. We’re going to be a little shaken up, trying to figure out which way we’re going.
“Everyone involved told us it was a very unconventional deal,” Erik said.
“Usually there’s a lot of gibberish, washboards, hubbub and hiccups, but we’ve had very little,” Chris said. “It was a well thought out decision.”
Erik explained: “A lot of my clients were already coming from here, for my landscaping work, on the recommendation of Kevin and Chris. And partly I would have hated to see someone who wanted to grow in the landscaping industry buy this place and then take on a lot of work. I didn’t want to see it fall into the wrong hands. »
In short, he didn’t want to have a competitor as a supplier instead of a friend.
Meanwhile, Chris is just happy to have found a buyer who won’t be building apartment buildings.
“I didn’t want to see this place change,” Erik agreed. “Since I was 14, I have always had a special place in my heart for this property.
Besides landscaping products and services — such as outdoor paving and rock — and some minor redevelopments on the retail side, the Lagesons said they plan to keep Forest and Floral much the same.
“They want to continue the tradition of quality plants and the selection of trees, shrubs and perennials that Park Rapids has become accustomed to,” Chris said.
“All the same, just new faces, and keep it up,” Jenna agreed.
Asked about their feelings about the change, Chris choked up as Kevin replied, “A lot of things will be missed. Customers. We made a lot of friends. … The first time you plant the greenhouse; you walk in and smell the dirt. It’s difficult. Definitely going to miss that.
“We’ve met a lot of amazing people over the years,” Chris added in tears. “Lots of really good friends. Lots of really good employees, who were never really employees; they were friends. We’ll miss them. … We didn’t have jobs; it was so much fun.”
“This year we’re just going to hang out and breathe, play with the grandkids,” Kevin said.
“Hanging out with our parents,” Chris agreed. “Do some of the things we’ve neglected to do over the years. Buy a new fishing rod.
She said they plan to stay in Hubbard County. “We love the community and the people, and our family is here. We will probably be their best customers this first year.
“It’s going to be an adventure, and I can’t wait to be there,” Jenna said. “I’m excited to be in the community more like you were. I just hope I can be as good as Christine.
“They’re fine,” Chris said. “They are enthusiastic, interested and engaged. They are young; they are dynamic. They bring a new perspective.
“If I can’t figure something out, the first person I’m going to ask is usually this guy,” Erik said, pointing to Kevin.
“I kind of exhausted my knowledge now,” Kevin hesitated.
“I don’t know,” says Erik. “I think there are still a few left in there.”