Third Generation Business
History of Jonker’s Garden
1945: After serving in WW II John Jonker returned to Holland, Michigan and started business as a ‘huckster’, selling fruits and vegetables from the back of a small truck, ringing a hand bell to announce his approach to the ladies of the neighborhood. His wife Marie, home with 2 kids and one on the way, also sold produce from the front of their home at 816 Lincoln Avenue.
1948: After Marie began to sell more than John, he borrowed $50.00 from his younger brother Andy and built a fruit stand at 897 Lincoln Avenue, way out in the country at that time. The concrete floor and roof built of 2X4’s and tar paper still frame the center of the year-round garden shop today.
Early 1950’s: Numerous lean-tos, awnings, coolers, additions, and a pigpen are added to the original fruit stand. (The pigs are fed over-ripe fruits & vegetables.) Jonker’s Produce Market sold bushels of fruit bought at the Benton Harbor and Grand Rapids wholesale markets to the housewives of Holland who did a lot of canning and freezing in those days. Vegetable and flower plants were also sold. The plants were individually cut out of wooden flats with a trowel, and wrapped in newspaper for each customer.
1956: John built his first greenhouse, trading large framed windows from a demolished GM factory in Grand Rapids for landscape plants with Stuart Padnos of Louis Padnos Iron & Metal Company.
Late 1950’s: The business name changed to Jonker’s Produce and Garden Center as John began trucking in nursery stock from Alabama and Tennessee. Trees, shrubs, rhododendrons, and perennials were planted in the field behind the fruit stand and behind their home. The perennials were dug and sold individually for 75 cents each for a large blooming plant.
1961: Because of the increase of larger supermarkets with big produce departments, and the decrease in home fruit preserving, Jonker’s got out of the produce business. Meanwhile, the Garden Center business was growing steadily, composting leaves collected from the City of Holland, mixing and bagging our own potting soil, and growing more and more plants.
1962: John built Nuttin’ But Puttin’ miniature golf course with sons Johnny and Jim and others. Son John mixed most of the concrete in a small electric mixer, transporting it to each hole with a wheelbarrow. 12-year old Jim learned how to trowel it smooth.
1966: The golf business went so well that John sold off all the nursery stock in the field to make room for a 9-hole pitch and putt golf course called Gofer Golf.
1970: More greenhouses were added to the front group of greenhouses.
1972: Jim finished four years at Calvin College studying English Secondary Education and found that the market for teachers was glutted. Youngest son David spent some time working at Chris Craft and decided that factory work was just not for him. The houseplant craze was just beginning, so they both joined Mom & Dad in the business.
1972: Mingo the monkey was born somewhere in Texas.
1970’s: Jonker’s Garden rode the crest of the Back-to-the-Earth/Houseplant/Macramé wave. Beginning with one small table with a hand-written sign reading “Houseplants”, Jonker’s expanded to 5 greenhouses full, even extending to the out-of-doors in summertime. Up to five trips a year were made to Florida, Texas, and California for foliage plants, cacti, and pottery. The macramé department sold rolls of cord and buckets of beads. The synergy of John’s creativity and Marie’s practicality was the source of great success.
1974: Jonker’s Garden Center became Jonker’s Inc. (dba Jonker’s Garden) and Jim and Dave began to buy the business and property from their parents.
1978: Jonker’s Garden belatedly got into the Interior Plantscape business in response to customer’s requests. Soon Jim was installing and maintaining tropical plants in dozens of area office buildings, restaurants, etc.
1979: Jonker’s Garden got its first telephone (!) at the insistence of Jim’s wife Joy who was pregnant and wanted to be able to contact him when the big moment arrived.
1981: Gofer Golf was discontinued. The land was needed to make room for a barn to replace the pretty red and white chicken coop, which had fallen over. The first of the “back” greenhouses was erected.
1980’s: Dave built a new greenhouse or coldframe nearly every year as business expanded and Jonker’s switched from buying and selling to growing and selling. Nursery stock, water gardens, and more perennials were added to the mix.
1989: Jonker’s Garden mailed their first newsletter.
1991: A major expansion and reorganization tripled the size of the outdoor retail display area and a larger seasonal rear checkout was added. The perennial and statuary departments were also expanded.
1992: Lincoln Avenue was widened to 3 lanes, curbs were installed, and Jonker’s Garden could finally pave their parking lot. The front of the store is given another facelift.
1994: Dave Jonker died from complications of a stroke. He was 40 years old.
1995: Jonker’s Garden underwent major internal reorganization, as Dave’s responsibilities were re-assigned to Jim, Zandra, Dena, Holly, and others.
1996: The Interior Plantscape department was sold to give Jim more time on-site.
1997: Nuttin’ but Puttin’ was razed to make room for more parking to ease the parking crunch.
1998: Jonker’s celebrated their 50 anniversary.
1999: Jonker’s acquired the woods to the south and demolished the little yellow house. A new checkout area was made, and the outdoor retail area was again expanded and reorganized, this time into the shade of the woods.
2004: John Jonker passed away.
2005: jonkersgarden.com is online.
2009: Marie Jonker passes.
2011: Third-generation Dirk Jonker joins the business.
2016: Jim passes most authority to Dirk and starts his “gradual retirement.”