On yet another day of subzero temperatures, I visited the Madison Greenhouse Store on Williamson Street. There I stood in an actual greenhouse, blanketed by warmth, thinking ahead to gardening season and an end to long underwear.
The Madison Greenhouse Store, which opened last April, is more than a garden shop, although it is also that. Owner Jordan Hosking focuses primarily on custom-constructed greenhouses.
Hosking, who grew up in Marquette, Mich., and studied English at Northern Michigan University, was working as a sales rep for a window company in St. Louis when he decided to join his newly retired dad in traveling around the country, building greenhouses. The duo became much in demand from homeowners and schools.
Hosking's travels led him to Madison, which he decided to use as a home base. Walking down Willy Street one day, he noticed the "for lease" sign on the former Kitchen Gallery space. The landlord liked his idea of building greenhouses, with one condition: Hosking had to include a retail element.
Sheila Haskins manages the retail side of the business. She makes it a point to find organic, sustainable and U.S.-made products and stay away from plastic.
The shop specializes in what Hosking calls "bread-and-butter gardening." It sells a wide range of seedling pots, compost bins, plants, birdhouses and garden-themed artwork by Tiffany Olson, a regular at the Dane County Farmers' Market. But it also stocks accessories more pertinent to a dedicated greenhouse, like cooling systems.
The store holds classes (usually about $25), which often include some sort of take-home product, on topics from propagation to canning. There are special kids' classes for the 4-plus set, too.
"The retail side of things is way busier than I thought it would be," says Hosking.
But he also sees a bright future for the greenhouse side of business. He still does custom work from coast to coast, but has constructed seven greenhouses here just since opening the shop, and more are in the planning stages. Hosking predicts that "it's going to become more normal" to see backyard and even rooftop greenhouses.
Expect to spend $3,000 or more, depending on options, for a permanent snow- and wind-load-rated greenhouse in your backyard. After a four-week delivery window, the installation can usually be done in under three days.
Just in time for seed-starting, to get a jump on the warmer days to come.