35 Years Serving Our Community – This May Be Our Last
For 35 years, Hartke Nursery in Olivette has answered gardening questions, ordered special plants for their customers, diagnosed diseases, insect pests and guided their neighbors to the right plant for successful gardening in St. Louis. Started in 1978 by Ralph and Pat Hartke as a location to embellish their services to their lawn care customers, the business has grown into becoming a valuable contribution to their community. From the excellent selection of plants and personal service, to summer homegrown produce, straw house maze and pumpkin patch for the children, natural holiday wreaths, roping, Christmas trees, knowledgeable, educated, certified, experienced staff, landscape designers as well as installation and maintenance crews, no project is too small for their personal attention.
Cindy Collins, started working part-time for the Hartkes in May of 1990. Previously a Montessori Directress, she became passionate about her new position and went back to college to receive a degree in Horticulture, became a Missouri certified nursery professional which includes landscape design, became a certified arborist and has been active in conservation and environmental issues involving horticulture for 24 years. She and another brief business partner purchased the business from the Hartkes in 1999 and she, her new husband and the business partner, purchased the property, becoming Co-Owners in 2000. In 2001, the Collinses bought out the other partner. Don Walls, the current general manager and another landscape designer, joined the nursery in 1992. He has such a following that the nursery has a sign that reads “The Donald is IN”. Jerry Collins works mostly behind the scenes doing bookwork, accounting chores and deliveries.
In the first week of April, 2011, Olivette’s City Council held a meeting to determine if they should change the municipality’s laws to allow parking lot businesses to be granted permits in their community. Small businesses have been disappearing all over our communities but Olivette has been hard hit in the loss of small businesses. Hartke Nursery provides over $85,000 annually in community support through sales taxes. An out of town grower wanted to open a short term parking lot nursery just around the corner from Hartke Nursery and needed Olivette to change their laws to allow them to do business in a parking lot. Begging the council to protect Hartke Nursery’s long term brick and mortar small business position in the community, Cindy was met with a complete lack of concern from all the City Council members. The decision to change their laws passed unanimously.
Faced with a recession, loss of interest in gardening, droughts and extreme weather conditions, the nursery’s business sales have dropped since 2007. Falling from a staff of 43 in 2007, the nursery now employs 20 people which include the owners. The staff is dedicated, and committed to keeping the nursery and their jobs alive. Still under these difficulties, the business showed a profit in 2012.
Even though the nursery’s property is valued at twice the amount of the balance of their mortgage and had a profitable year in 2012, BMO Harris Bank (Bank of Montreal NOT Missouri) has started forbearance proceedings with a deadline of mid September to close down the nursery. Many professionals have commented to the Collinses that BMO Harris Bank has a reputation for dumping small businesses. In order to keep this neighborhood “Mom and Pop” nursery in its community, it will “take the village” to keep it alive. Many avenues are being pursued to find other lending institutions, a co-signer or a miracle. So far, “the village”, in the form of Olivette’s City Council, has shown that they care nothing about losing yet another small business in their community.
The customers that visit the nursery are frequently heard commenting on how much they love this little nursery. The staff at the nursery also loves this little nursery. Does “the village”? What value is it to you to have a local nursery around the corner to help connect you to the beautiful world of gardening?
H20 and YOU!
Are you having issues with the way water flows through your property? Hartke Nursery and the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance can help you not only redirect and contain excess water on your property, but you may be eligible for a grant of $500-$2000! The Missouri Botanical Garden is spearheading programs to help residential/commercial owners plant native vegetation and to make other modifications to limit the rainwater seepage into nearby waterways. To find out more, go to www.mobot.org - "Sustainablility & Conservation - "In the Community" or www.olivettemo.com, search for "rain garden", "Rainscape Rebate Program". You can also check out this article for additional info. http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/st-louis-county-residents-could-get-money-for-rainscaping/article_f7412a5d-5699-56c5-884b-e4a1f66db66e.html
Hartke Nursery offers the consultation services of Cindy Collins, owner of Hartke Nursery. She has been involved in rain garden design/installation for nine years and can help you assess your water problems. She has information for assessing your needs and points to consider for the best plan for directing water flow on your property. She can assist you in applications/drawings to apply for the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance grant money. Call 314-997-6679 for more information.
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Hartke Nursery, Inc.
1030 N. Warson Road Olivette, MO 63132
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