By Kathy Hanks
The Hutchinson News, Kan.
Jennifer Gronau didn’t just buy a business when she purchased Benton’s Greenhouse last fall; she gained a legacy.
Beginning in 1946, the business on Valley Pride Road began growing from a strawberry patch and lean-to greenhouse to 11 greenhouses connected to the home of founders Farren and Maxine Benton. Plus, there are an additional six greenhouses at their Newton outlet.
The story of Benton’s Greenhouse hasn’t been lost on Gronau (pronounced “grow-now”). Providing the same quality products and the personal service is paramount for the new owner. Plus, she will keep the Benton name.
“There is 70 years of history; we’re not going to change it,” she said.
For the past seven years Gronau has worked for the Bentons’ daughter Diana Beasley, who took over the family business.
Gronau and her husband, Steve, live in Halstead. He owns an automotive business and she stayed home with her children when they were young. But when the children became teenagers, she needed something to do. A friend brought her to Benton’s Greenhouse and she was hired for seasonal work.
“I fell in love with the place,” she said.
She went on to run the Bentons’ Newton location at 2311 Edgemore, which is open spring through fall. Beasley began noticing something special about Gronau and began mentoring her in both the growing and marketing side of the business.
“I knew she would be very good,” said Beasley, who’d been nurtured in the greenhouse business by her parents and, in turn, is now passing that knowledge on to Gronau. Tips such as how to grow the fullest geraniums are being passed along.
“She taught me how to grow a quality crop,” Gronau said. Along with their retail business, they have a wide distribution area for their wholesale market.