Flower Wagon suits growing family
By Paul Sullivan For The Courier-News June 4, 2012 5:48PM
Center, Flower Wagon new owner Rich Kator, his wife Jaclyn, and son Zach watching as dad cuts the ribbon officially opening the nursery and garden center while members of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce welcome the new business. | Paul Sullivan photo
The Flower Wagon
Where: 989 W. Spring St., South Elgin, IL 60177
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. April through October, weather permitting.
Updated: July 6, 2012 11:01AM
SOUTH ELGIN — Rich Kator, 36, celebrated his 21st year in the retail garden center and nursery business by buying the Flower Wagon, a 30-year-old garden center in South Elgin.
Kator had been searching for several years for a garden center to buy when, one day searching on Google, he found the Flower Wagon. “There it was,” he said. “I’d known about this place for 14 years.”
The Flower Wagon will continue as an independent, family-owned and -operated business. At the grand opening of the business, Kator’s uncle Ron Kator was busy watering the flowers and the vegetables; his great-aunt Kathy Wales helped out at the register, and mother-in-law Rhonda Klecz commented that mom-and-pop family businesses were hard to find out here in the suburbs.
Of son-in-law Rich and her daughter Jaclyn, Klecz said, “They’re good kids. It’s exciting to see young people invest in these types of businesses.”
Although the retail sales part of Flower Wagon is seasonal — from April through October — the work goes on almost year-round. On grand opening day, dozens of baskets of flowers went out the door.
From February on, Rich personally hand-grew and dead-headed 2,500 baskets of flowers. Baskets range in price from $17.99 to $59.99.
Kator plans to expand his retail season through late fall by growing and selling such cool-weather favorites as kales and mums. His nursery property is 4.7 acres with four greenhouses; a substantial part of the acreage is green lawn, leaving Kator with room to expand. The Kators grow much of the plant material they sell. “Homegrown from our house to yours,” he said.
Kator is a people person. “It’s a fun industry,” he said. “People are always in a good mood when they’re buying flowers. The hours are long, though. I put in 100 hours a week. Water at 6:30 in the morning and then don’t finish up until 7:30 or so. It’s nice to have a little break in the winter.”
Kator prides himself on personal customer service and his knowledge of the art of growing. “We had a guy ask if we carried potato starts. I told him just go to the organic section of his grocery store and cut out a couple of eyes. I don’t want to rip people off.”
Flower Wagon sells annuals, perennials, shrubs, small trees, garden décor, pottery and planting material. “We have over 30 varieties of tomatoes,” said Kator, “and The World’s Hottest Pepper. It really is — that’s the name of it.” The store carries the Good Earth line of soil amendments and fertilizers as well as pesticides for such pests as Japanese beetles.
Before buying the Flower Wagon, Kator managed a Frank’s Nursery and Crafts and several other independent nurseries. Kator met his wife Jaclyn at Frank’s when each was starting out in life in their first job.
The Kators now have another nursery of a different sort. That one is for their 16-month-old son Zach.