BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEVER – As children, a scolding for playing in the dirt is in all of our pasts. But for Wever businessman Ty Louck, playing in the dirt has been a passion for more than 25 years.
Louck celebrated his 25th anniversary as owner and operator of Ty’s Greenhouse in Wever this year. The Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce paid a visit to Louck’s business on Friday and were treated to a tour of the acres of plastic barns filled with seedlings and plants being readied for shipment for spring planting.
More than 25 years ago, Louck was working for Phil Beebe, and Beebe suggested that Louck start his own business.
“He had a greenhouse he wasn’t using and said, ‘If you want to tear it all down and move it away, you can have it’. So that’s what I did. That was a lot of hard work. I’m not sure I would do it again,” he said with a chuckle. “But we did it and we started looking at our customers and decided we didn’t have enough space and that fall and spring we built another one. We added a little through the years and then we got a little land locked so without buying any property we’re kinda stuck.”
But the hard work has paid off. Louck has acres of greenhouses comfortably set at about 72 degrees and full of the smell of plant seedlings and fertilized soil.
“I started in 1992 and I had been working with Phil Beebe and he taught me everything I know. I don’t know whether he liked to see people go off on their own, or he got too much work and wanted to stay small and would send us off on our own. I kept the customers I had when I was working with Phil and started from there.
Louck just does wholesale. He doesn’t have any retail outlets in the area, but Hy-Vees in Burlington and Fort Madison are two of his biggest clients.
“I do, oh, all over the state of Iowa. I stand and look to the west and that’s my area. Des Moines, Waterloo, Dubuque, Chariton, we’ve got all those places,” Louck said.
Staffing reaches about 40 during peak times, he said.
“I have around 40 when we’re loading and in full swing, typically from Mid-April to the end of May. There are probably 25 around here now that started at the first of the year and a couple of full-time employees,” he said.
Louck said his history mirrors that of Matt Mohrfeld of Matt’s Greenhouse, also in Lee County, and the two have remained friends since leaving Beebe’s company.
“It really helps us, to0, being friends, because it helps our customers and keeps them happy. If I’m out of something, I can get it from them and if they’re out they can get it from us. So far there’s been plenty of business for both of us, we don’t compete too much,” Louck said.
A walk through the facility is a tour though plastic half-circle units on cement pads with ventilation fans and metal framework. One simply pulls the plastic back to go between the units and the occasional door. Louck has most units completely full of seedlings, but on the north side of the facility there is some extra space for expansion.
The heavy grade plastic stretched over the metal frames are good for about four years and Louck said it takes about two days to stretch new plastic over the units.
One of the cement blocks in the greenhouse has footprints from Ty’s two oldest daughters Samantha and Morgan. Ty and his wife Krystle, who handles the bookwork for the company, also have two other children Kailey and Kyle and all four of them still live at home.
“They’ve all worked out here at one point or another,” he said.
He said he has no plans for retirement anytime soon and hasn’t really even thought about what happens next.