New Antioch nursery is a gardener’s dream
By Long Hwa-shu Special to The News-Sun June 2, 2013 5:05PM
The colorful flower baskets available at Horvat Nurseries in Antioch are welcoming to shoppers. | Photos by Tina Johansson
Updated: August 2, 2013 2:09AM
Just in time for the growing season, a new garden center with more than 20 years of history has opened in Antioch, giving area green thumbs another choice to find the right plants for their homes.
Horvat Nurseries on Deep Lake Road opened on Mother’s Day. Despite the cold and stormy weather that followed, business has picked up steadily.
With flowers blooming in a burst of colors from hanging baskets and flats, and vegetable seedlings tall enough to be taken home to grow and nurture, Horvat looks like a gardener’s dream. There are shrubs, evergreens and fruit trees of every description. Gracing the patio are concrete statues like lions and deer, plus benches, bird baths and other lawn ornaments.
“We’ve had customers following us from Skokie and Eau Claire in Wisconsin,” said Alex Horvat, the third-generation owner of the family business.
Alex attributed quality plants at reasonable prices to the loyalty of his customers. “Ninety percent of the plants we sell are grown on site. We’re the biggest vegetable grower in the area,” added Alex, a friendly 50-year-old with an easy smile.
Horvat Nurseries is on 12 acres with five greenhouses and a retail center. Plans are under way to build another green house adjoining the retail center later this summer.
The combination will enable customers who come into the retail center “walk right into the green house to see what we have to offer,” said Alex’s wife, Laurie. The couple went to Western Illinois University, he majoring in horticulture and she in business.
Horvat Nurseries traces its beginning in the 1950s when Paul Horvat, Alex’s grandfather, and his father, Drago, immigrants from Slovenia, started a landscaping business in Wilmette. In 1963, his father opened Horvat Flowers in Northbrook, a business he ran with his wife, Christine, until 1996 when Drago retired from the flower business and got into farming. On a 3,000-acre farm in Mineral Point, Wis., he raises 400 cattle, according his son.
Alex started out on his own in 1994 when he opened Horvat Nurseries on eight acres off Grand Avenue just west of Route 45 in Lindenhurst. He moved to the current location after selling the property to a developer. The new facility was under construction for three years before opening on Mother’s Day.
Alex took pride to mention that he and two other guys built the three new greenhouses and two buildings themselves. The couple’s eldest son, Michael, 16, built the patio with his friends. They have 10-year-old twins, Holly and Logan.
“People are happy we’ve finally opened. We’ve heard nothing but good comments,” said Laurie.
The couple also owns a wholesale tree business in Beaver Dam, Wis. Some of the trees sold at the nursery come from there.
As hands-on owners, the couple grows flowers and vegetables from seeds and plugs as early as March with the help of their long-time employee, Sherry Smith, the greenhouse manager.
“I enjoy watching plants grow from seeds then flower, waiting to be taken home,” said Sherry who has been with the Horvats for 35 years.
Obviously enjoying what he is doing, Alex chimed in: “I don’t wake up every morning hating going to work.”
He stressed that at Horvat Nurseries plants are grown naturally with no chemicals used to stimulate their growth so that they are sturdy and strong. What they don’t grow themselves, he said he buys from growers in the north so that the plants can easily adapt to local climate.