After six decades in the community, the Pleasant Valley Garden Center and Flower Shoppe (1301 S. Gilbert St.) will be closing its doors in January of next year.
“This has been our, I guess you could say it has been our life,” said Aleda Feuerbach, who owns the store along with her husband, Kerry. “We’ve been eating, sleeping and breathing it for a lot of years.”
The store will remain fully open and functioning through the end of the holidays and then transition into clearance-mode in January to sell off as much as possible, right down to the greenhouse panels. The store will also be hosting a final holiday open house this weekend, on Saturday, Nov. 19 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“It’s going to be hard,” she said.
Her dad, Arie Kroeze, started the business in 1952, one year after arriving in Iowa City from Holland. He started working as a grower for Aldous Greenhouse — a former business on Church and Dodge Streets, where Ace Hardware is now located — and in his spare time he worked as a gardener and landscaper. Kroeze and his wife, Toni, first bought the property on South Gilbert Street, where the garden center still stands, in 1962.
When she was a kid, Feuerbach said her dad used to pick her up from weekend sleepovers at 6:30 a.m. to go work at the store.
“There were no excuses,” she said. “Family businesses are hard and as a kid you don’t realize or appreciate it. But we learned how to work, and I don’t think that is a common attribute anymore.”
Her kids also grew up working in the store — taking inventory, running the registers and helping out with planting.
On Monday morning, as Feuerbach helped customers find wicker chairs, clay pots and solar lights and rang up their purchases, customers repeatedly commented on how sad it was to see the store go. She said some of their customers knew her parents, and generations of families have picked up their gardening supplies from Pleasant Valley.
“It’s bittersweet, because this is home. But I’m coming to grips with it,” she said.
Kerry Feuerbach, who started up the flower shop portion of the business, said he’s had the opportunity to get to know many of their customers through working on floral arrangements for weddings and funerals.
“Some of my best memories of the store are creating the connections with all of our good customers over the years, finding out what they want and making that happen,” he said. “You get a lot of satisfaction from that.”
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The store’s impact on the community goes beyond helping customers plant and landscape their garden beds. Each year for over two decades, preschoolers from the Regina Early Childhood Education Center went to the Pleasant Valley store for their annual spring field trip.
“They presented this absolutely awesome field trip for my three year olds,” the center’s director, Mary Pechous, said. “The children each got to get their hands in the dirt and plant a flower. The employees out there taught the children about the plant’s needs — watering and sunlight. We’re going to miss that.”
She said Aleda and Kerry Feuerbach have also helped out by donating seeds and volunteering their time and expertise for the preschool’s nature center.
“Everyone there is so willing to help. I wish they weren’t going to be leaving us,” Pechous said.
Part of the Pleasant Valley Garden Center will continue on through the Pleasant Valley Greenhouses, which will open in South English under the ownership of Dawn Bouslog, who has worked as the Pleasant Valley grower and manager for the past 10 years. The greenhouses will open in the spring and provide annuals, perennials, container gardens, vegetables and herbs.
“She’s an amazing worker,” Aleda Feuerbach said of Bouslog. “She knows plants and she’ll do well. That’s why we’re okay letting her have our name.”
The Pleasant Valley Golf Course (4390 Sand Rd SE), which the Feuerbaches first opened in 1987, will also remain open.
Feuerbach said they had known for a while that they wouldn’t be able to stay at their location permanently. Iowa City’s plans for the Riverfront Crossing development include widening Gilbert Street, and a proposed map has the space where Pleasant Valley now stands allotted to mixed-use buildings that combine retail, office and residential space.
“They are trying to make this part of the world better,” she said of the plans.
So when a developer approached to buy the land, they agreed. Originally, they thought about moving the business out to the golf course location — even hiring an architect and getting archeologist and engineering reports — but the expense was too high, she said.
The store currently employs about a dozen people, many part-time. Some of those employees will move on to work at the golf course once the store closes.
Kathy Maxwell started working at the store almost 10 years ago as “part-time, seasonal, temporary help.” She said after working as a dental hygienist, she was looking for something that would allow her to get her hands dirty and wear jeans to work. Working in the greenhouses during the Iowa winter was an added bonus.
“In January, when you hit the low point, you have all this warmth and humidity,” she said. “People come in; sometimes it seems like it’s just to enjoy that warmth and to be around green, growing things, like a group therapy.”
Maxwell said she hopes to help Bouslog with the greenhouses in South English.
After the store closes, Aleda Feuerbach said she and her husband will be focusing their efforts on the golf course and helping Bouslog start up the new business.
“We’ll stay busy,” she said.
But it will be a change from the bustle of the past few decades spent splitting time between the greenhouses, garden center and flower shoppe in addition to the golf course. For starters, they are looking at their first Valentine’s Day when they won’t be working.
“A lot of people have worked here over the years, and learned a lot in their time here,” she said. “It’s coming fast now, just six weeks away. It will be very different, for a lot of people.”