A business blooms
Falls Creek brings locally grown flowers to Alpena
ALPENA — Humble beginnings have blossomed into a successful business for the family behind Falls Creek Produce & Flowers.
The flower business is owned and operated by mother-daughter duo Karen Grochowski of Alpena and Amanda Timm of Hubbard Lake. Karen’s husband, Dan Growchowski, is also involved in the business behind the scenes.
“In the very, very beginning, we started with a few mason jars of flowers at our farmers market booth, and we’d be excited if we sold five bouquets,” Timm said.
The business began in 2014 when they decided to try to grow the flowers for Timm’s wedding. They became more interested in researching and expanding the flowers they grew and wanted to be able to provide locally grown flowers to the community. Flowers are grown both at Grochowski’s home in Alpena and at Timm’s home in Hubbard Lake.
Grochowski said the first year was a lot of trial and error and that they started by growing the flowers they knew so flowers would be available. She said they would learn by searching the internet for information, attending conferences, and then planning their changes for the next year.
“I grew flowers around the house and in the garden — I’ve loved to do it my whole life – so this, to me, is just the best of both worlds,” she said.
Timm said they cemented their first retail relationship in downtown Alpena in 2017. This year, the business expanded its presence in the community to include two downtown locations, Cabin Creek Coffee and The Local Basket Case, and a third location at Perch’s IGA.
They also held a couple of pop-up events downtown, arranged bouquets for numerous weddings, offered flower shares direct from their farms, and partnered with Rose Bisanz, owner of the Rose Garden of Greens, to offer flower shares in addition to Bisanz’s community-supported agriculture share of vegetables.
Timm said flower shares are a relatively new concept and likened it to a weekly subscription service, in which shareholders pay for the service up front and receive a new, locally grown and arranged bouquet each week. Grochowski said they pride themselves in being able to provide flowers that are grown right here in Alpena or Hubbard Lake.
“Flower shares are different, because they’re flowers that will only grow in northeastern Michigan,” Grochowski said, adding that sometimes the flowers in a bouquet can’t be grown locally and have to be shipped in.
Besides the weather, one of the biggest challenges Grochowski and Timm face is getting accustomed to the difference of scale that’s needed for the backyard grower versus the scale that’s needed for production.
Timm said that, in the beginning, they might have planted 100 bulbs of a particular flower but that they’ve grown to the point they’re now planting thousands and thousands of flowers. The business’s spring flower order for 2019 included more than 8,000 bulbs — 3,000 of them tulip bulbs — and an unknown number of seeds that will be started indoors in January or February.
They also have to think about succession planting, so they can continue to grow flowers after the first flowers to bloom have been picked.
This year also marked the first year they’ve used Christmas greens such as wreaths and garlands, according to Grochowski. The wreaths, garlands and other decorations were sold at the Christmas market, which was held in Culligan Plaza earlier this month.
Timm said they had been dreaming about having a Christmas market since last Christmas and were able to bring it to fruition with the help of Anne Gentry, executive director of the Alpena Downtown Development Authority.
Gentry said the business’s ability to have a presence downtown, although they don’t have a brick-and-mortar business, is what makes them so cool. She said they had to obtain a vendor’s permit and special permission to use the plaza before they were able to move forward with the market. Gentry attended the Christmas market and said she was very pleased with the turnout.
“It seems like their customers keep coming back every season for new things, so that always speaks a lot to them and the quality of their business, that people keep supporting them throughout the year in different ways,” she said.
Although the Christmas market was set to be Falls Creek’s grand finale for the year, the business has decided to offer gift certificates at the requests of their customers for spring 2019 share of flowers.
Timm believes flowers really spark memories for people and said being able to share in the joy people have when they pick up a flower is something special. Both Timm and Grochowski continue to be humbled by the response they have received from the community.
“We’re just really thankful for how well our products have been received and that keeps us inspired to bring new things to the community,” Timm said. “The support has really been almost overwhelming.”