Standing in a humid greenhouse, Rhoda Moore looks over a pan of tomato plant seedlings that just sprouted through the soil.
“They will be ready to plant in May, and May is the correct planting time in Missouri,” said Rhoda, who with her husband, Dave, owns and operates Moore’s Greenhouse and Flower Shop, 3311 Green Ridge Road.
As the calendar moves toward landmark holidays — especially Easter and Mother’s Day — business picks up for the Moores.
“Spring is our big, big time. April and May are absolutely bonkers,” Rhoda said.
Dave’s father, Frank, started Moore’s Greenhouse in the 1940s at 20th street and South Limit Avenue. A Missouri Pacific shops employee, he also had worked at Archies Floral and Greenhouse, then started his own greenhouse as a hobby to sell plants to his friends at the shops.
“He was selling tomato plants for 10 cents a dozen, can you imagine?” Rhoda said.
In 1960, Dave and Rhoda helped Frank expand his business to grow flowers and other vegetable plants. Then, in 1969, Kehde’s BBQ wanted to move to another location, as McDonald’s wanted Kehde’s spot on South Limit Avenue.
“They approached us, and with Highway 65 expanding to four lanes, we sold to Kehde’s and bought our current location so we would have more room,” Rhoda said.
As part of the move, they brought a greenhouse and garage over from the 20th Street location; Dave built the rest of the greenhouses, which take up 10,000 square feet of space.
“We ran the greenhouse from February to May, then we’d quit, that was it,” Dave said. “Then we would start up again the next year. Then we started getting into the trees and the shrubs and we started doing landscaping.”
In 1987, they opened the flower shop “so had something to do from May for the rest of the year — and that has turned out to be bigger than the greenhouse,” he said.
Some of the Moores’ biggest sellers each year are Easter lilies, which will be available starting this week, and poinsettias at Christmastime. For the spring planting season, this year they will offer onion plants, onion sets, seed potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, 30 varieties of tomatoes, 20 varieties of peppers, rhubarb, grapes, strawberry plants, asparagus and blueberries, along with a large selection of annual and perennial flowers.
“But our number one goal in business is to give good customer service, because you don’t get that a lot of places,” Rhoda said.
Over the years, one of the biggest changes she has seen is that people used to go to greenhouses to purchase plants, now they go to a grocery store, drug store or building supply store.
“We grow a higher quality plant, but a lot of people don’t know that,” Dave said. “All they ever see is what is in those photos (in weekly advertisements). They don’t know what a plant is supposed to look like. (When they come to Moore’s) they pick out stuff that I wouldn’t sell to them.”
Rhoda agreed, adding: “See, this right here is a super, wonderful geranium. The reason why: It has three breaks instead of one straight stem shooting up. Sometimes when customers come in and pick out something, they’ll pick out the worst looking plant we have. And I’ll say, ‘I think I can find you a better one.’ ”
Last year, a competitor to Moore’s Greenhouse and Flower Shop arose in the form of Bloomin’ Gardens, the Robert and Mark Mason Greenhouse located behind the Ewing Vocational Center that provides work opportunities for Center for Human Services clients. But Rhoda sees that only as a positive development.
“This is a wonderful thing they are doing,” she said. “We support them 100 percent. ... If we didn’t have (their greenhouse), that is where I would go to buy my plants because I believe in supporting hometown businesses.”
The Moores’ son, Kevin, is the third generation to work at the greenhouse, and Rhoda said there’s one reason she and Dave keep showing up early each morning to help their plants, and their business, grow.
“Because we’re nuts,” she said, with a laugh. But turning serious, she admitted, “My favorite is the customers. We have so many who come back to us year after year.”