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Emma Engelkes

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Emma Engelkes was the first in our line of women to own and run her own greenhouse business. In 1965, Annette's sister-in-law Gail Kellar and her husband Jerry moved to Nevis Minnesota. Gail had been running a bulk seed and bedding plant business that she had purchased from Ostermann Hardware in Ocheyedan Iowa and wanted to sell it. Emma had mentioned wanting to run a garden center and Annette knew Gail was not asking much for the business. So Annette asked Emma if she was interested in doing it. She said yes.

Annette and Emma had just started the Cloverdale Garden Club, which is still going strong years later, so now they decided to start the Cloverdale Garden Center. They checked out wholesalers and remodeled their garage into a garden center at the farm. They painted signs and planned other advertising. They hung posters in public places in all the surrounding towns. They painted, planted, and prepared.

The grand opening was scheduled for March 23, 1966. Low and behold on March 22 the Iowa prairie provided what it often does in Northwest Iowa in the springtime... a good old-fashioned, rip roaring blizzard. Annette couldn't even get out to the farm. The roads were not plowed. 'Opening Day' had not a single customer. The next week went well though.

In November of 1966, Annette, her husband Dusty, and her kids moved to Minnesota. Emma, who didn't have a driver's license at the age of 52, now had to get one. Annette had been driving her everywhere.

In 1967, the farm Emma and her husband Omke rented was sold out from under them and they had to move into Cloverdale. They owned four acres and a building that was shaped like a house, but was really filled with 'sealed' corn. It was a busy time. They had to sell the corn, turn the building into a house, set up their shop, and set up their greenhouse at the place in Cloverdale.

They found a nice, used Lord and Burnham glass greenhouse for sale at a really good price. The only drawback was its lack of directions... not that it stopped Omke. Omke took those boxes of glass and metal and slowly but surely assembled a fully functioning greenhouse. He even assembled the automatic ventilating windows that worked when he got done with the greenhouse building. They quickly learned to never doubt Omke's calculating mind. If he could take those stacks of glass and metal pieces and turn them into a fully functioning greenhouse without directions, there wasn't much he couldn't do.

They set up three greenhouses and overflowed them with flowers. Bankers refused her a loan. Her own relatives laughed at her and wanted to know what she was doing planting all that stuff when she would never be able to sell all of it. But her customers came from all over. From Sibley, Ashton, Allendorf, Melvin, Ocheydan, May City, Sanborn, Hartley, Sheldon, Bigelow, Worthington, Little Rock, Rushmore, Harris, Rock Rapids, and George they came. Customers would sit around talking while they waited their turn to order bulk seeds.

Emma was open 9am to 9pm daily and had customers late into the night. When she brought her profits to deposit at the bank... the banker now wanted to know how he could help her, but she no longer needed help.

Emma had her greenhouse through 1976. In February 1977, Emma and Omke moved to Pine Street in Park Rapids and started a new adventure. An adventure that included helping their daughter Annette with her greenhouse business. They turned a little house into a huge new home. They also did flea marketing for twenty years. Emma was known as the Linen Lady at the market. Their green thumbs didn't go to waste though, their personal gardens blossomed and their yard became the prettiest on the block.

Emma Engelkes died on May 17, 2001 during one of the busiest times of our selling season. Annette always told her she couldn't die in the spring, but she didn't listen. Omke died seventeen months later on October 17, 2002. Cloverdale Grand Opening