It was just four years ago when Tim Ryan and John Bonner first built their modest 300-square-foot greenhouse, marking the start of what has become one of the most popular lettuce and herb operations in the region. And now, Great Lakes Growers in Burton, OH, has announced the addition of another 25,000 square feet to its operation, bringing its total facility size to 85,000 square feet.
An ever-expanding customer base motivated Great Lakes Growers to make this significant investment in its future.
While many operations might be content with the status quo, Great Lakes has continued to grow over the years, with its newest addition enabling it to double unit capacity.
“Keeping up with consumer demand has really driven us to make this significant investment in our future. Our retail customer base is expanding daily, and we want to help them meet the demands of their customers. Increasing our physical footprint is a win-win situation, for sure,” says Great Lakes Growers co-founder Tim Ryan.
The 25,000 square-foot expansion at Great Lakes Growers helps them stay one step ahead of consumer demand, while at the same time spearheading new product offerings.
Beyond customer demand, another driving force to Great Lakes’ expansion was the simple realization that different plants require different growing environments.
“To maintain our high quality standards, we needed to make sure our plants were grown in the optimal environment,” Bonner says. “Some varieties of lettuce produce larger, higher-quality yields when exposed to different light intensities. Some herbs grow stronger and more quickly with lower humidity levels. There’s a constant balance we need to maintain, and our new facilities will allow us to provide that kind of individual attention to our plants, which will ultimately deliver a better product for our customers.”
Another area of growth for Great Lakes that will come as the result of its expansion is job growth. Since opening in 2011, Great Lakes has consistently added staff each year, with this newest initiative expected to increase full-time equivalents by nearly 70%.
Great Lakes Growers will now be able to supply Northeast Ohio grocers, wholesalers, and restaurants with nearly 3 million heads of lettuce a year.
“While we’re thrilled to be able to respond to customer demands for more products and a broader spectrum of products, we’re also very proud of the opportunity to hire additional staff from the local area that will help support the economics of our community,” Bonner says.