BY PHIL WHEELER
Bob and Kim Wistinghausen are fourth generation florists.
Bob’s great grandparents, John and Mary Wistinghausen, started Wistinghausen Florist & Greenhouse in Oak Harbor, and it has been passed on through the family over the last 105 years. Grandparents Lewis and Dorothy succeeded John and Mary, and parents Dave and Bette took over from them.
It’s still a labor of love, not a job, for the Wistinghausens.
The business was started in 1915 on Townline Road, a rural byway that back then was on the very edge of Oak Harbor. At the very beginning, the business mainly provided tomatoes to Jack Weller’s tomato factory, before diversifying into the floral business seen today.
One of the more interesting early opportunities involved cutting blocks of ice from the Portage River to fill the Oak Harbor ice boxes that had become popular. The ice was stored in the Wistinghausen cellar, where the present cooler still stands today.
As electricity and refrigerators became common around Oak Harbor and Ottawa County, the ice chest was the perfect answer for the Wistinghausens’ need to preserve cut flowers.
Not many companies can say they’ve been around for a century, but for Wistinghausen Florist & Greenhouse, it’s just business as usual. Through four generations of expert florists and years upon years of perfecting their craft, they have become the local authority when it comes to flowers, gardening and gifts. The shop has everything residents and businesses need to discover their own green thumb.
Thanks to the years of expertise they have cultivated growing flowers and vegetables, Wistinghausens Florist can give customers all of the assistance they need. From gardening supplies to help people get started with the right materials, to the flower and vegetable sets that they want to plant, it is all available at Wistinghausen Florist.
The shop is half floral and half greenhouse, and is open year round.
“We start planting for next May in November. In the fall it’s poinsettias, and it’s mums for the spring. We provide vegetable sets for many local businesses,” said Bob Wistinghausens. “We deliver throughout Ottawa County. Our customers come from Genoa to Lakeside, Fremont to Gibsonburg and Woodville.”
It is a demanding job, said Kim Wistinghausens.
“The cold frames are not automated. If we go to church and can’t open the vents, and the sun comes out, it’s too warm and the plants will cook. If it gets too cold, they will die. Because of the constant care needed for our plants, we really don’t know what a two-day weekend off is all about.”
Interestingly, COVID-19 was actually a boost to their business. When Michigan greenhouses shut down, Wistinghausen Florist & Greenhouse already had planted 80% of their crop. They had to close for a week or two, and the Wistinghausens planted the last 20% of their crops. They just proceeded as usual, and although Easter was a total loss, Mother’s Day was huge, they said.
People couldn’t get out to visit, so they sent flowers and other gifts. Daily business has prospered.
Running a business like Wistinghausen Florist has to be about more than the money.
“My great-grandfather provided what the community needed,” Bob Wistinghausens explained. “It’s about service first. You go to a grocery store or a hardware store, and they put the product on the shelf and you take it off. We manufacture, grow or create almost everything we sell.”
Kim summed it up perfectly, “We are here to serve.”
At Wistinghausen Florist you’ll find an extensive array of gifts and décor. From hanging plant baskets to concrete angels and wind chimes, there is something unique for any occasion. They have an inventory of Mylar balloons and greeting cards that pair perfectly with flower varieties, and available from one convenient stop.