News of the going-out-of-business sale at Wentworth Gardens has spurred a late-season rush at the longtime greenhouse in the town of Amnicon.
"It was dead from mid-July until three days ago," said Gary Kane, who owns the business with Robyn Borst. "We would have a few customers a day. Now since the word is out, the parking lot is full."
Trees, planters, flowers and colorful metal frog sculptures were whisked out the door by customers Friday, Sept. 14, some of whom were discovering the site for the first time.
For 23 seasons, Wentworth Gardens has been serving customers from throughout the area, including folks from Ashland, Bayfield and Ironwood, Michigan.
"We're so happy for the customers we've had over the years, the relationships we built with them," Kane said. "Tons of people came in year after year."
Some customers have broken down in tears at the news the business is closing.
Elizabeth Opsahl grew up coming to Wentworth Gardens with her family. She started working at the business this year.
"I love it," she said Friday. "I'm sad it's going out of business."
But Wentworth Gardens can no longer make ends meet.
Increased competition from big box stores, fewer young people getting into gardening and rising costs have taken a toll on the small business. Wentworth Gardens employs a crew of 15, many high school students and retirees, at the height of the season in the early spring. It currently employs five.
Even in the midst of closing, the business will host its Fall Fest on Sept. 29, complete with games, rides, activities and food.
The event also signals the kick-off of the annual Haunt at Wentworth Gardens, organized by Boy Scout Troop 12 of Poplar. Last year, the scouts and their families transformed the greenhouses into a spooky trail of fear.
"We're going to have a vortex, and electric chair, wall panels, props," Kane said.
The haunt begins Sept. 29 and continues Fridays and Saturdays from 6:30-10:30 p.m. through Oct. 28.
"It's a cool community thing to do," Kane said. He hopes to continue to house the haunt in his barn, even after the business closes.
A transplant from Indiana, Kane left his job as head mechanic of a city highway department in 1996 to take a greener path. He purchased the former Wentworth Greenhouse and dug in to business ownership.
"It's been a very enjoyable job," Kane said. "One of the things that keeps me going is working with flowers. It's part of the reason I'm happy to come to work every day."
Times have been tight before, and he's taken part-time work as a town equipment operator, something he plans to do again when the greenhouse closes for good.
But Amnicon will remain his home.
"I'm still town clerk," Kane said.
The business is for sale, and has been since last winter. The stock is half off and will be until the doors shut for good at the end of October. An equipment auction is planned in mid-October as well.
"We're sad," Kane said.
At 60 years old, he said he's ready to hand over the business.
Wentworth Gardens is the second locally owned greenhouse to close this year. The Garden House in Solon Springs has also been shuttered. New owners Al and Lyndsey Johnson are converting it into The Atrium, a wedding venue.
The key to keeping local businesses is patronizing them, Kane said.