New Greenhouse Operations Born From Color Star Growers’ Bankruptcy

Altman Plants' production
Altman Plants’ production

A grower shutting its doors, laying off workers and declaring bankruptcy is never a good thing. But when Colorado-based Color Star Growers filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on December 15, 2013, and sold off six locations, there was a silver lining: new businesses were born.

Color Star Growers, ranked No. 9 on Greenhouse Grower‘s 2013 Top 100 list, was owned by the Verbeek family and at its peak  reached 5 million square feet of greenhouse space. A producer of annuals, perennials, herbs, veggies and seasonal blooming potted plants, it served Walmart, Lowe’s, Kmart and local grocery stores through its many locations.

According to the Eastern District of Texas Claims Register, Color Star Growers owed money to more than 30 creditors when the operation claimed bankruptcy. Greenhouse Grower called each location to confirm its sale. Color Spot Nurseries purchased the Sanger, Texas, location. Altman Plants bought the Peyton, Colo., Harrisonville, Mo., and Giddings, Texas, locations. An investment company called Raindrop Partners bought the two operations in Fort Lupton, Colo.

Introducing Bela Flora Nurseries

Ken Altman, who co-owns Altman Plants with Deena Altman, says he has leased the Harrisonville, Mo., location to Steve Bateski, who also owns two greenhouse operations in Jasper and Carthage, Mo., and has combined the three locations to start a new greenhouse business called Bela Flor Nurseries.

The operation will produce bedding plants and other ornamentals, and has secured business with Walmart in Kansas and western Missouri. Brian Aguiar, the former CFO of Color Star Growers, has been named CEO of Bela Flor Nurseries.

Previously, Bateski had been leasing his Jasper and Carthage facilities to Color Star, but when the operation went bankrupt, he had to either lease to another operation or create a new operation, Aguiar says. Bateski chose to lease the Harrisonville facility from Altman to create Bela Flor Nurseries. The three locations together amount to 1,089,000 square feet, according to Aguiar.

“It’s good to be partnered with Walmart through its TAP program, which gives Bela Flor the opportunity to show that even though we are a new operation, we take this business very seriously and we will allocate the necessary resources to serve it,” Aguiar says.

The TAP program was new to Walmart last year and gives color growers the opportunity to merchandise stores, create table designs and keep plants and displays looking their best at retail, Aguiar says. While Lowe’s and Home Depot have had their own merchandising programs through growers over the years, the new TAP program should give Walmart more presence in the market.

“It’s a chance for Walmart to see how merchandising will work in its stores, and it will give Walmart more day-to-day insight, as well as higher margins and less shrink,” he says.

In addition to Aguiar, Herb Verbeek, one of the founders of Color Star Growers, will stay on at Bela Flor Nurseries as head grower, and several Color Star team members are in place, as well, Aguiar says. Altman says Kenny and Beth Verbeek will also manage the Giddings, Texas, facility for Altman Plants.

Altman Plants Grows Its Business

As for the Peyton, Colo. location, Altman says he plans to venture into the hydroponic tomatoes business there, a first for his operation. He says he thinks some of Color Star’s business growing for big box retailers will come back around to Altman, as well. The purchase of the three facilities from Color Star, and subsequent leasing of the Harrisonville, Mo., operation to Bela Flor, adds about 50 acres to Altman Plants’ growing space. That puts the Top 100 operation at more than 9.5 million square feet.

“The Verbeeks are great producers and business operators,” Altman says. “All of the facilities are really clean, well built and were well-run. This purchase provides a lot of opportunities for Altman Plants. We are excited, we’re making plans, we have good people staying on and we’re happy to have their help. Over time, we hope to build these into nice businesses.”

Expanding Circle Fresh Farms

Among other investments, Raindrop Partners LLC owns Circle Fresh Farms, a Colorado-based greenhouse vegetable operation focused on providing locally grown, fresh produce year-round to Colorado’s metropolitan areas, including Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs. With high demand for its products in its existing facilities, the operation is growing and wants to expand to new markets. Buying Color Star’s two Fort Lupton locations is just the start of its expanding horizons, says Zach Frisch, who heads up business development for Raindrop Partners.

“By purchasing 33 acres of greenhouse space, Circle Fresh Farms is taking a quantum leap forward,” Frisch says. “For years, our business has had a supply problem, not a demand problem. We can’t keep up with the insatiable demand for our products. So we are thrilled to be able to grow our business 10 times larger to fulfill the demand that’s already present in our local markets.”

Frisch says the group is looking to expand Circle Fresh Farms to the Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas markets. But it won’t grow food in Colorado to ship to these cities – the business is built on providing local, fresh-picked food the same day to its customers, he says.

In addition to having its own facilities in northern and now southern Colorado, the Circle Fresh Farms brand network also provides sales, marketing and distribution for other produce growers. Its brand commands a higher price point at stores like Whole Foods, which allows growers to make better margins while affording them the ability to do what they love – grow produce – without the marketing aspect, Frisch says.

Additionally, Frisch says Circle Fresh Farms takes traceability seriously, not only in case of a food safety recall but also to improve growers’ transparency to consumers – an aspect of food marketing that is in higher demand today than ever before.

“We have implemented tracking and tracing technology in our systems that allows us to trace our produce directly to the grower and greenhouse where it was grown,” Frisch says. “This is necessary in the event of any type of food recall, but it also provides the information that consumers want. Consumers are placing more value in their food and they want to know where their food was grown and about the grower who produced it. We feel that Circle Fresh is a pioneer in providing this information to consumers.”

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

3 comments on “New Greenhouse Operations Born From Color Star Growers’ Bankruptcy

  1. I got a hydrangea (3qt.) from you but no info. . I want to know if I can plant it outside and it will last here in K.C., Mo.? How much sun does it need. I have others and they are all different. I love the flower and want it to last. If this is an example of your quality you’ll do great in your new business , good luck. Thank you… Jan

    1. Really?! You can find this website to post a stupid bitch rant but you can’t use Google to search for best practices for Hydrangea plant?
      I’m sure their quality is highly dependent on your inability to find information.

More From ...
lighting feature

June 29, 2015

Customizing Crop Foliage Color With LEDs: Red Leaf Lettuce

In the first of a four-part series highlighting the multiple uses of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), researchers share how end-of-production supplemental lighting with LEDs enhances red leaf lettuce color prior to harvesting and shipping.

Read More
LuxFlora logo feature image

June 29, 2015

Luxflora Wants To Create A Lifestyle Movement

A new organization for women in horticulture plans to take on some of the industry’s toughest marketing challenges by promoting the use of flowers and plants in everyday living.

Read More
window flower boxes

June 28, 2015

The Horticulturist And The Decorator

Allan Armitage tells shares a story about a horticulturist and a decorator to illustrate why gardening and decorating are not jobs; they are simply meant to bring pleasure.

Read More
Latest Stories
lighting feature

June 29, 2015

Customizing Crop Foliage Color With LEDs: Red Leaf Let…

In the first of a four-part series highlighting the multiple uses of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), researchers share how end-of-production supplemental lighting with LEDs enhances red leaf lettuce color prior to harvesting and shipping.

Read More
LuxFlora logo feature image

June 29, 2015

Luxflora Wants To Create A Lifestyle Movement

A new organization for women in horticulture plans to take on some of the industry’s toughest marketing challenges by promoting the use of flowers and plants in everyday living.

Read More
window flower boxes

June 28, 2015

The Horticulturist And The Decorator

Allan Armitage tells shares a story about a horticulturist and a decorator to illustrate why gardening and decorating are not jobs; they are simply meant to bring pleasure.

Read More

June 28, 2015

Keep Your Cool In The Greenhouse

Summer is in full swing, and that means growers need to worry about protecting plants and greenhouse employees from brutal temperatures. No sweat! These product manufacturers have offerings to help beat the heat.

Read More
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

June 27, 2015

Perennial Plant Association Wins The 2015 Excellence In…

With its emphasis on education and its Perennial Plant Of The Year program, the Perennial Plant Association boosted the popularity of perennials and helped make it the vital category it is.

Read More
Prewashing surfaces and produce can reduce debris in wash solutions.

June 27, 2015

Keeping Your Greenhouse Fruits And Vegetables Safe: San…

The last article in the four-part food safety series highlights sanitation training, policies and protocols to maintain for an effective and successful food safety program.

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

June 27, 2015

Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabi…

As most growers know well, the federal government regulates all insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and other commercial chemicals used on agricultural crops. Therein lies the problem with use of chemicals on cannabis crops – so far, the feds want nothing to do with legalized marijuana. According to “Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabis,” a June 17 article on the National Public Radio (NPR) network by Agribusiness Reporter Luke Runyon, the lack of regulated chemicals for cannabis has left growers to experiment on their own. “In the absence of any direction the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate,” said Colorado State University Entomologist Whitney Cranshaw in the NPR report. “Sometimes they’ve used some things that are appropriate, sometimes unsafe.” Denver officials held tens of thousands of marijuana plants earlier this year due to safety concerns, but […]

Read More
Petunia-cultivarsSelecta4CMYK

June 26, 2015

Selecta Klemm’s ‘Night Sky’ Wins Fleu…

Fleuroselect, the international organization for the ornamental plants industry, announced that the FleuroStar Award 2015/16 was given to petunia cultivar ‘Night Sky’ from Selecta Klemm. Andrea Dohm, director of breeding and research and Antonella Capo, breeder of ‘Night Sky,’ accepted the prize from Fleuroselect President Herman Hamer, FleuroStar Committee Chairman Heike Gronemann and Secretary General of Fleuroselect Sally van der Horst. The winner was announced at the Green Inspiration Event on Thursday, June 11 in Bleiswijk, Netherlands. The new networking event is organized by the Dutch media agency TuinbouwCommunicatie in cooperation with Fleuroselect. Selecta Klemm’s ‘Night Sky’ was competing against Begonia tuberhybrida F1 ‘Nonstop JOY Yellow’ (Benary), Bidens hybrida ‘Beedance Painted Red’ (Moerheim New Plant) and Osteospermum ecklonis ‘Serenity Blue Eyed Beauty’ (Florensis). ‘NightSky,’ The Rising Star In Garden Centers ‘Night Sky’s White spots on the dark-violet flowers look like an ever-changing star constellation. This cutting-raised newcomer is easy to grow and […]

Read More
Figure 1. Pak Choi grown in a deep plug tray on a flood and drain bench.

June 26, 2015

The Intrigue Of Edible Petiole Crops For Hydroponic Pr…

In a twist to traditional field production, experiments with petiole crops Pak Choi, kale and Swiss chard determine their suitability for hydroponic production systems using plug trays.

Read More

June 25, 2015

Berger And Theriault & Hachey Peat Moss Form Strate…

A strategic alliance between Berger and Theriault & Hachey Peat Moss allows Berger to continue to meet its customers by ensuring the continuity of its Baie-Sainte-Anne and Bay du Vin facilities for the next 40 years.

Read More
Carol Miller

June 25, 2015

Anatomy Of How A Garden Retail Business Deal Is Made

For the regional chain SummerWinds, a clear-eyed assessment of suppliers is needed for both to succeed in a competitive market.

Read More
Syngenta Vegetable Trial Overview

June 25, 2015

Vegetable Trials Test Variety Adaptability In Contain…

How do crossover varieties normally grown by fresh market farmers, and now available to home gardeners, perform in patio containers? Vegetable container trials at Syngenta Flowers show surprising results.

Read More
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

June 25, 2015

Perennial Plant Association Names Six Scholarship Winne…

The Perennial Plant Association awards six scholarships for horticulture students to attend its July perennial plant symposium, plus a stipend of $1,000.

Read More

June 24, 2015

Perennial Container Combos And New Intros Shine At 2015…

Despite a rainy start to the day, more than 300 perennial enthusiasts showed up at 2015 Darwin Perennials Day to see the latest perennial introductions first-hand and connect with some of the best suppliers in the business.

Read More
2015 Readers' Choice

June 24, 2015

The 2015 Readers’ Choice Finalists Up Close And P…

You’ve narrowed the Readers’ Choice Finalists down to top picks in the Annuals, Perennials and Best of the Rest categories. Now it’s time to pick the overall winner. Here’s a closer look at the three finalists to help you make your choice. Then join us during Cultivate'15 at Greenhouse Grower's prestigious Medal of Excellence reception on Monday, July 13, where we will reveal the winner.

Read More
baker creative

June 23, 2015

Baker Creative Wins International Award For Work With J…

Baker Creative, a local branding agency, was recently selected as a Gold Award winner for the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals’ 2015 Hermes Creative Awards. Baker Creative won in the Advertising/Direct Mail Piece category for creating a factory opening invitation mailer for Jiffy Group . Hermes Creative Awards is an international competition for creative professionals involved in the concept, writing and design of traditional and emerging media. The Hermes Gold Award is presented to those entries judged to exceed the high standards of the industry norm. Only 22 percent of the entrants received the award. “When Jiffy needed to make a splash to draw attention to the opening of its new substrate facility in West Bridgewater, Mass., we turned to Baker Creative. The video card created by Baker Creative assisted us greatly with getting the much needed attention when inviting professional growers to the official opening,” a Jiffy Group […]

Read More
AmericanHort_HortScholars

June 23, 2015

AmericanHort Announces 2015 HortScholars

AmericanHort has selected six students from across the country to serve as this year’s HortScholars. This rigorous, competitive application process identifies some of the industry’s brightest professionals and helps to launch their careers in horticulture by providing education and networking opportunities. The goal of the HortScholars program is to provide students with an enriching professional development experience that increases their knowledge, industry awareness and career enthusiasm. 2015 HortScholars: • Sarah Leach Smith, University of Delaware • Bobby Nance, Virginia Tech • Madeline Olberg, Purdue University • Nick Sobecki, Ohio University • Emily Teng, University of Hawaii • William Yoho Jr,, Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute HortScholars will be on-site at Cultivate’15 (July 11-14 in Columbus, Ohio) and receive complimentary Cultivate registration, lodging and meals. Additionally, they will receive a complimentary one-year AmericanHort membership. On-site at Cultivate’15, HortScholars will assist the Generation Next Community with events, conduct presentations that share […]

Read More
July 2015_GROW Perspective_Katie Ketelson

June 23, 2015

MegaMashups Take Plants To The People

It’s no secret I love plants. It’s probably not much of a secret that I love beer, too. And in my perfect world, I’d have a permanent beer garden decorated with galvanized containers stuffed full of flowers, high-rising arches of hops and endless rows of hydroponic strawberries for everbearing enjoyment. But all that costs mega money, so I’ve settled (for now) on orchestrating mega mashups focused on my loves mentioned above, striving to reach an audience that doesn’t even know our industry exists. I’ve long preached about how we need to go to the people. Meet them on their turf, so-to-speak. We can’t expect Gen X or the Millennials, or heck, even my parents, to walk into our garden centers on a whimsy. And frankly, why would you want to be so passive? Your customer spends their extra dollars at the coffee shop, at the mall and at the bar. […]

Read More