For the past six decades, this Crystal Lake nursery has delivered on its commitment to customers. As it assumes ownership of a longtime Elburn nursery, it’s doubling down on its ability to honor tradition while providing quality products and services.
Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery and Garden Center is continuing the growth that has made it a well-loved fixture in Crystal Lake for over 60 years. Under the guidance of new owners Johannes “JP” Pieterse and Brent Troost, the garden center is set to open a new location about 30 miles south, in Elburn.
“We’re excited to be serving this part of Illinois,” says Pieterse. “We have a lot to offer Elburn, St. Charles, Geneva and other communities in this area.”
Pieterse and Troost purchased Countryside in September 2020 from Richard Harms and James Riedl, who had owned the company since 1973. Prior to that, both were accomplished professional growers who discovered their green thumbs in their teens and followed their passion.
“I had my own cut rose facility in the Netherlands,” says Pieterse, who moved to the United States in 2012. “When I sold it, my neighbor asked me ‘What’s next?’ I had no idea, so he told me about some growers in Illinois who were looking for someone willing to manage their orchid program. I said OK.”
After being put in charge of an 80-acre growing facility, Pieterse brought Troost aboard in 2015. Troost, who holds a degree in horticulture from Michigan State University, had experience as a head grower at a number of leading companies, including Costa Color, one of the largest greenhouse growers in the country. Recognizing a good partnership when they saw it, the two embarked on their own business venture and pursued owning their own retail outlet and growing operation.
“Half a year later, we bought Countryside,” says Pieterse. “In the middle of COVID.”
The experience of purchasing a brand-new business in the middle of a global pandemic is not one the team is keen to repeat.
“It was an absolute nightmare,” laughs Troost. “We pulled it off, but it was a lot of work and a lot of flaming hoops.”
One constant through the chaos was Countryside’s reputation around McHenry County. With roots in the region that span over six decades, the garden center and nursery, located at 5301 E. Terra Cotta Ave. in Crystal Lake, has received accolades from a number of organizations throughout the region and the country, including Teleflora and the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association. Pieterse and Troost also saw an upside in their industry during the pandemic.
“When people are stuck at home, they want to garden,” says Troost. “They look around the house and decide they want better landscaping, better gardens and nicer plants in their homes.”
While other businesses lost their footing during the pandemic, Countryside kept its feet firmly planted. It even managed to gain ground, welcoming new customers wanting to learn more about growing their own plants and gardens. It was a position that suited the company well. Countryside has always been committed to growth, not just through its product lines, but also through education. The Crystal Lake location has always been a haven for beginning and blooming growers, continually providing seminars, group tours and other educational opportunities throughout the community. The company has even produced online videos where team members offer guidance and tips for home gardeners.
“They’re mostly instructional videos about plants and trees,” says Troost. “We have about 3,000 subscribers. We’re not YouTube superstars, but we’re happy to share what we know.”
Now, Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery and Garden Center is blooming again with a second location at 42W075 Illinois Route 38, in Elburn. The 1-acre facility will host a retail outlet and its own greenhouse.
“We have a grow location in Woodstock that provides all of the material for the Crystal Lake location,” says Pieterse. “For this location, everything we sell here will be grown here.”
Plant enthusiasts from the Elburn area will be familiar with the location. The facility was once known as Shady Hill Gardens, a local garden center that was nationally recognized as a top geranium specialist for over 47 years.
“Matt and Joe Heidgen, who owned Shady Hill Gardens, were ultra-specialists in geraniums,” says Troost. “They even appeared on Martha Stewart.”
Those geraniums came with the state-of-the-art Dutch glass greenhouse on site and will still be part of the inventory when the new Countryside location opens.
It’s a legacy the new owners are proud to carry into the next chapter of the Elburn facility.
“We’re probably the only ones in the world who have geraniums like these,” says Pieterse. “These are breeds that have been discovered and selectively bred for close to 50 years. We’re proud to keep it going, and we knew that Shady Hill’s customers will be happy to see that.”
Much of Shady Hill Gardens’ staff will remain, but visiting customers from up north might also see a familiar face. Pam Teepe, former perennial manager in Crystal Lake, is the new general manager in Elburn. She has big plans for the grand opening scheduled for Saturday, March 25.
“We’re introducing house plants to this location, which is something that wasn’t here before,” she says. “We’re also expanding our perennial program, introducing small fruits and roses. There are going to be a lot of new programs here that we’re very excited about.”
As only the third set of owners in Countryside’s 60 years, Pieterse and Troost have taken on a company with a legacy of growth. Starting on 13 acres on Terra Cotta Road in 1960, the store more than doubled its acreage in Crystal Lake, then added an off-site growing facility through the purchase of Garden Valley Greenhouses in Woodstock. Now the company is starting an entirely different chapter, one its owners hope will keep gardeners busy all year long.
“The former owners were open on a more seasonal basis throughout the year,” says Pieterse. “We want to be open year-round. We want to offer more items and programs that our customers can get excited about. That includes bird seed, gardening essentials and educational seminars.”
With everything in place for the grand opening on March 25, Pieterse, Troost and Teepe are putting finishing touches on the new location.
“There’s going to be a lot going on,” says Teepe. “And with our new location, right on the edge of these growing communities, our name, ‘Countryside,’ is taking on a whole new meaning.”