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End of an era at Gartzke’s Greenhouse

By Staff | Jul 14, 2008

Duane and Bonnie Gartzke, above, left, recently sold their Blue Earth greenhouse business to Diana and Denny McTamaney.

For over 50 years the Gartzke family has owned the greenhouse in Blue Earth. As of June 27, that was no longer true.

Denny and Diana McTamaney of Eden Prairie purchased the local gardening and floral shop from Duane and Bonnie Gartzke on that date.

“My parents purchased it in 1957 from Bernie Hanson,” Duane Gartzke said. “My mother worked here part time and Bernie Hanson wanted to sell it. She convinced my father they should do it.”

His father was an auto mechanic and quit that job to take over the greenhouse.

Duane was a sophomore at Blue Earth High School at the time.

“I had just bought a tennis racket and was going to join the team at school,” he recalls. “But my mother convinced me to work here after school instead.”

He has been working there ever since. “I still got to play a lot of tennis, just not on the school team,” he said.

Then in 1973 Duane and his wife Bonnie bought the business from his parents.

Bonnie, a graduate of Frost High School, worked at the county auditor’s office for 15 years. In 1974 she went to work at the greenhouse instead.

Now, 51 years after Duane started working there, they are ready to turn over the reins to someone else. That someone else is the McTamaneys.

“We were both born and raised in Grand Rapids,” Denny McTamaney said. “That is Grand Rapids, Minnesota, not Michigan,” he chuckled.

Denny is a diesel mechanic by trade, a job he had during his four years in the Navy.

“I was a mechanic and service manager for a couple of car dealerships in the Twin Cities for three years,” McTamaney said. “But I was looking for a career change.”

Then he saw an ad for a gas and chemical manager at a company called Air, Inc. He has worked there for the past 12 years.

“They supply semi-conductors to the computer industry,” he explained. “The gasses and chemicals were used in the production process.”

How does a diesel mechanic wind up in a florist shop in Blue Earth? Another career move, of course.

Diana McTamaney was in the mortgage banking business, and her company was shut down by Capitol One.

“I always loved gardening,” she said. “So I convinced Denny we should buy a greenhouse somewhere.”

They spent a year looking, before deciding to move to Blue Earth.

Diana McTamaney has done floral design as a hobby. She also grows African violets for fun.

“I belong to an African violet club,” she said, “As well as a lily and a iris society.”

The McTamaneys have also made their own self-watering pots for flowers. They will continue to do so, and sell them at Gartzke’s. The pots are made of clay and have an inner container for the flower and an outer one for water.

That might be one of the only changes at the local business.

“We plan on keeping the name the same, and we will continue to employ all the people who work here now,” the McTamaneys said. That includes several workers who have been there for many years. At least one worked for Duane’s parents, over 35 years ago.

As far as retirement plans for Duane and Bonnie, there are not many. They will continue to work at the greenhouse part time for a while, perhaps as long as a year, while they show the McTamaneys how things are done.

Duane will probably golf and fish. Bonnie will read and play the piano.

“We have three grown children and six grandchildren, so we can spend some time with them,” Bonnie said.

“We may travel some,” Duane added. “I have always wanted to see Duluth, Bonnie has always wanted to go to Italy.”

“I might also finally have time to clean the basement,” he said with a smile.