WenkeSunbelt Greenhouses, based in Kalamazoo, MI, recently purchased neighboring Zylstra Greenhouses. The deal closed November 30 and includes three locations; however, WenkeSunbelt Greenhouses plans to use the main, 6-acre location and rent or sell the other two locations, totaling five acres, says Lisa Ambrosio.
Growing both finished crops for independent garden centers and the landscape market, and young plants for other growers, the operation realized the need to expand last spring, when it was unable to fulfill its current customer needs, let alone grow the business, Ambrosio says. Discussions began about whether to build, or if there was another operation to buy, or if there was an operation that could contract grow. In mid-June, the word came that Zylstra Greenhouses would be closing its doors.
“In addition to the current needs that we had for more space, we also had competed with them, so we thought there would be even more opportunity for more customers needing more products,” Ambrosio says. “So we decided to take a look at it.”
The sale went through November 30, but WenkeSunbelt Greenhouses began working on minor retrofits on the operation several weeks before, and learning how to sow and grow in the new environment, Ambrosio says. The 6-acre main location at the Zylstra facility will now be used for all of WenkeSunbelt Greenhouses’ plug production in Michigan.
“It’s mostly rolling tables and it’s really designed well for plug production,” she says. “Then that will free up the space at our 30th Street location, where we were growing plugs before, for finished production.”
In addition to purchasing Zylstra’s, WenkeSunbelt Greenhouses became a licensed root-and-sell for the Selecta line of rooted cuttings in Michigan, picking up the business that Zylstra had previously fulfilled. The rooting will be done at the Wenke 30th Street location and no longer at the former Zylstra facility. WenkeSunbelt is also a licensed root-and-sell for Syngenta Flowers, Danziger, Suntory Flowers, Dümmen Orange, and more.
Since acquiring Sunbelt Greenhouses in 1986 and Millennium Greenhouses in 2014, WenkeSunbelt has grown to encompass more than 50 acres, with 26 acres of production space at Wenke Greenhouses in Kalamazoo, MI, and 24 acres of production space at Sunbelt Greenhouses in Douglas, GA. WenkeSunbelt Greenhouses is No. 26 on Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers list.