Blooming business

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Jones Greenhouse is in its eighth decade as a family affair

From left, Lewis, Benny and Linda Jones and Carra Tucker.

In 1928, America – and Boone County – were drastically different places than they are today.

To provide perspective, during those 12 months the maiden east-to-west trans-Atlantic flight occurred, “Steamboat Willie” became the world’s first film to include sound and the initial machine-sliced, machine-wrapped loaf of bread was sold.

So, what hasn’t changed since 1928?

Buren J. Jones and Sons Inc., or as many know it, Jones Greenhouse.

The Boone County institution, which has boasted a Zionsville location to go along with its original Gadsden site since 2008, is in its 84th year of operation. To hear co-owner Linda Jones speak about her family business’ past and present is to leave little doubt about the reasons for its success.

“Our secret has been service, I believe,” Jones says. “When someone buys something here, we carry it to the car for them. We’ve been known to deliver to people who can’t make it out.”

Jones Greenhouse will host a Customer Appreciation Open House at its Zionsville location on Saturday and Sunday. Hours on Saturday are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hot dogs, chips and homemade cookies will be available.

Jones, who married into the family business at age 20, has now been a part of the operation for 40 growing seasons, give or take a few to raise her children. The service aspect of the business has endured, but there have been changes along the way, too.

“The oldest building in Gadsden is a greenhouse that’s 34 years old – everything has been remodeled, starting in 1995,” says Jones of her family’s approximately 60,000 square feet of enclosed greenhouse space. “Since I started, many more things are automatically watered now, and everything is plastic. Back then, you had clay pots in wooden trays, which got very heavy.”

Jones Greenhouse’s business model is a relatively simple one. Employing a staff of just two salaried workers and 10 to 12 total at any given time, they grow nearly everything they sell from seeds at the Gadsden location. Some plants are then transported to the Zionsville storefront, at U.S. 421 and 146th Street, where price, quality and the ever-present service reach a different clientele.

In an age of massive garden centers inside equally-massive department or home-improvement stores, Jones Greenhouse’s method is strikingly different.

“We cut out the middle man,” Jones says. “Lowe’s and places like that, they don’t grow anything they sell; it’s all brought to them. Most of the time, even though our product is better because we grow it, our prices are lower. We make sure we have the right nutrients. That’s the difference.”

Jones Greenhouse, as it is today, was always a family affair. Begun that year of 1928 – “That’s the earliest year I found seed catalogs from,” says Jones –by Jones’ father- and mother-in-law Buren J. and Martha Rae Jones, the operation soon included their sons, David and Benny. Benny, the younger brother by 16 years, is Linda’s husband.

Today, David is retired and the reigns have gone to Benny and Linda, as well as a sister of Benny’s who does part-time book work. In true Jones fashion, however, there is another chapter to the regime in the offing.

“I have a son and a daughter who work with us now, and my son plans on taking this over,” Jones says. “I also have nine grandchildren, and they’re here most of the time.”

Jones Greenhouse is offering classes for the first time this season. Most workshops are on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Zionsville location, and classes such as Unique Container Workshop and Make Your Own Fairy Garden are offered. Visit jonesgreenhouse.com for details.

The years have brought good times and bad, all of them memorable, along with the changes.

“We’ve had famous customers, from the StokelyVanCamps to Tom Carnegie,” says Jones. “We did the flowers for the opening of (downtown Indianapolis’) Lockerbie Square, and we did the mums for the Traders PointHorse Show for 32 years.”

Recent construction along U.S. 421 was a problem for the Zionsville location, but the site pulled through. Jones said there are no plans to expand the business, which typically opens its year with pansies this month and ends it with mums in October, and a return to one location is not out of the question.

One storefront or two, it’s certain Jones Greenhouse is primed for another 80-plus springs, summers and autumns.

“We’ve built up a pretty faithful clientele,” Jones says. “Everyone’s always been nice and they (customers) enjoy coming here. It’s something I’m planning on handing down.”

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