Bill Heidenreich carries on a family trade tradition through Heidenreich Greenhouses
Photos by Nicole Davis
You can’t replace the wisdom that comes from a lifetime spent in a business. Bill Heidenreich would know. As a fifth generation family member in the greenhouse industry, he uses the knowledge of those he grew up around to successfully sustain Heidenreich Greenhouses on the Southside of Indianapolis.
“I cherish talking to all of these old timers, if we’re stuck and trying to figure something out,” he said. “I call people all of the time to get their opinions. The industry in general, the greenhouse industry, is unique. If we have problems or need anything, we call each other and help each other. That has never changed.”
Heidenreich Greenhouses was started by Bill’s father, William “Bill” Arthur Heidenreich in 1956. Prior to that, starting in 1890, the Heidenreich family had a greenhouse where the Garfield Park neighborhood is now.
When the elder Bill first opened the shop, it grew and sold fresh cut flowers grown directly in the ground. In the 60s, when that market dipped, he began to transorm the business into what it is today. Growing up in the shop, with his brother and four sisters, the younger Bill said made for fun times and taught him valuable lessons.
“Growing up, we could play in here, when we were little,” he said. “It made for great hide-and-seek games. As you got older and started helping out, at an early age you learn responsibility and how to do things. Nowadays, you look back and see we’re carpenters, plumbers, custodians. We’re jack of all trades. We do everything we can ourselves until we’re in over our head then we’ll call a company in to do something. You learn a lot. You have to. We do a lot of things besides manage the greenhouse here.”
Bill and his wife, Sherry, have owned the business since 2000. Heidenreich Greenhouses sells a full line of bedding plants: hanging baskets, flats and pots with perennials and annuals. Geraniums are the best seller, followed by vegetable plants.
In the fall, the shop sells garden mums, asters, ornamental cabbage and kales. After Thanksgiving, it offers seven varieties of Christmas trees. With 13 greenhouses, flowers are grown for both retail and wholesale.
In its peak, mid April to mid June, the shop employees up to eight people. The busiest holiday season is Mother’s Day, coming up May 14.
Business is going well, but it’s not without its past struggles. Bill said 25 years ago, the Southside had nearly 15 greenhouses. Then came the big chain stores which had a strong impact on the market. He said there are now four local greenhouses that grow for retail.
“You find some niches,” he said. “We expanded our wholesale. Now the retail is climbing back up. It cycles. We put out a good product. I think that keeps people coming back.”
There are many customers who prefer to shop local, and Bill said the best part of owning the business is getting to interact with his customers.
“I love to talk,” he said. “That’s kind of one of my downfalls. I talk too much. For me, that’s what life is about, the people. Yeah, you want to make a living, but it’s fun talking to these people. I look forward to every season. I love seeing the people come in. People come in here, we don’t know their names, but we talk about each other’s kids, our families, how we’re doing.”
With a perishable product, Bill said they need to spent a lot of time in the shop tending to the flowers. It can be time consuming, but gratifying.
“It’s neat seeing something go from a seed to a finished plant and to go out the door,” he said. “I like what I do. I like the hustle and bustle when we’re busy. I like being able to leave when I want to. It’s neat walking in here in the morning first thing. You open that door, you smell the smell in here. It’s earthy and fresh. It’s peaceful.”
Heidenreich Greenhouses began growing Easter lilies last year, wholesale, and added two more greenhouses to accommodate the expansion. Bill said they could use one more greenhouse, but for now he’s happy with how things are going.