ELKHART — After more than 50 years in business, Ted Sautter is closing his doors Friday, March 29.
“It’s Good Friday, so I figured that’s a good time to do it,” said Sautter as he paused from his work inside their building on Toledo Road. His wife, Katie, was working nearby.
Katie said that come Thursday morning, the announcement will be official. “Come by and you’ll see, ‘Ted’s retiring,’” Katie said.
Her husband said, “It’s been 51 years, we’re going to retire.” He’s closing the floral/gift shop and nursery/garden center.
It’s not a decision he’s made a big deal over, quietly telling long-term customers of the choice he made a couple of weeks ago. “A couple have come in, almost to tears. I can hardly believe it,” Ted Sautter said. In his decades in business, he said, “we’ve always tried to do what’s right.”
He’s not certain of the future of the building nor of the 27 acres and greenhouses he’s used to grow plants. There will be an auction later this spring for all of the business equipment, but details of that haven’t been worked out, he said.
Sautter said he decided it was time to retire. “I figured now’s the time to get out now that the getting’s good. It’s all changed. The younger generation’s just not buying roses,” he said.
Roses were a big business, and not just for the floral shop. A few years ago, Sautter was handling 130,000 roses that went to big box stores from the Dakotas to the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. When that business tapered off due to bankruptcies by major rose growers, he switched to contract growing for independent garden centers across the Midwest. That business dwindled, though.
The recession greatly hurt their business of providing plants for landscaping, too. It all combined to lead Sautter to his decision.
Sautter’s not sure what he’s going to do, but knows “I can’t sit still.”
He’ll probably spend more time volunteering with the Elkhart County 4-H Fair (he served as president for the 2010 fair), and will find other things to do. “I’m not leaving the country,” he said, grinning. “At least not yet.”