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July 09, 2014 10:01 PM

A Growing Business

Ward, SD

Chris and Nancy Iott of Ward, South Dakota started a little greenhouse in the country 25 years ago. Decades later, their business has grown to much more.

Since opening the doors of their greenhouse in 1990, the Iott's have had their hands full bringing plants to full bloom.

"It's just a pleasure and it's a lot of fun to watch the plants grow. They start from itty-itty bitties, pretty quick they're growing and blooming," Nancy Iott said.

Just like their plants, the Iott's business has grown well.

KELOLAND News first brought you the story of the little greenhouse in the country in 1993. At that time the family had just built their first large greenhouse after starting with a 10-foot by 12-foot building, about the same size as many people's living rooms.

"As the business grew we would add a greenhouse, almost every year and now we have 17 greenhouses, or just about an acre under cover," Chris Iott said.

Those greenhouses are home to 450 varieties of perennials, and one-thousand varieties of annuals. As you might expect, with more plants comes more work, and the Iott's have had to get creative managing it all, including using drip lines to water of all the hanging flowers.

"Originally we had 200 baskets and that would take two hours to water them. And now we grow 2500 baskets and we can water them all in less than an hour," Chris said.

The Iott's who started with just the two of them, now have 12 employees to help with the workload.

"People have asked us, 'Do you have trouble finding help?' We've been very fortunate that we've been able to get good help just within the family but then also with the neighbors around that are looking for a part-time job," Chris said.

"A lot of our success is because of the dedicated employees we've had. They go above and beyond the call of duty a lot of the time, and they're knowledgeable and they're friendly and that's kind of been our little niche is having good customer service," Nancy said.

Early on the Iotts knew they had something special, and just two years after starting their greenhouse, the family took their plants on the road.

After following the movement of Farmers Markets all across Sioux Falls, the Iott Greenhouse has found a home these days in this parking lot near Callaways in southern Sioux Falls. You can find them selling plants and vegetables there every Wednesday and Saturday during the summer.

The Iott's have also decided to fertilize the growth of other businesses by inviting other vendors to join them. John Raap was asked to join and is grateful his canned food business has found a home.

"He's been a great leader. He's easy to get along with. We help each other out, and I get some of my product from Chris, so it works out great. He brings it to me, I don't have to chase after it," John Raap said.

So why would the greenhouse owners be willing to travel 60 miles just to sell plants?

"It's just seeing the people every week," Chris said.

Scott Schemmel of Harrisburg visits farmers markets around Sioux Falls every week. What he enjoys about the Iotts isn't just their products, but their advice.

"I had some plants that had some trouble over the winter and he kind of gave me some insight as to maybe what I can do differently, keep them growing, get them to look better," Scott Schemmel said.

Going to the market has been great for the Iott's bottom line, before coming to Sioux Falls, they didn't get much traffic at the greenhouses in Ward, but after showing off their green thumbs in South Dakota's largest city, they've also begun to attract customers from outside the state.

"Marshall, even as far as Worthington, Madison to the west, so we cover quite an area now, people will drive this far," Chris said.

And while both admit they're slowing down as they get older, they also say they're not really sure just how deep this business' roots will go.

Visit the Iott's Website here

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