What happens when a mile-wide tornado collides with one of the largest growers in the Midwest? Massive destruction.
That is precisely what happened to our client, Free State Growers, on May 28, 2019. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident. However, when the clouds cleared, they learned that the tornado had taken out 90% of their nine-acre facility.
The next day, they started the cleanup and rebuilding process as well as continued with business as usual. Free State Growers never shut down or stopped shipping out products. They received support from growers all over the country. This effort allowed them to meet every customer order during that time. Everyone in the company participated in the rebuilding of their facilities. Production workers and administration staff all lent a hand. During the rebuild, they invested in new technologies to improve their growing operation. One example is their new Boom Irrigation System, which allows one person to water three acres of plants.
Photo Credit: Free State Growers
The rebuild was around 25% complete when COVID arrived in early 2020. Mark Illausky, the owner of Free State Growers, braced for lower sales. As time progressed, rather, he saw that business was booming. Many Americans took up gardening and caring for houseplants during the pandemic.
Free State Growers continues to focus on quality, variety, and customer service. Established in 1919, the company started in a 15,000-square-foot greenhouse. In 2012, Mark purchased the business from the Masson family. He rebranded the company to Free State Growers and has been going strong ever since. His impressive inventory includes everything from spring annuals to poinsettias and mums. He provides plants to supermarkets and mass-market retailers in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. If you’ve ever purchased plants from a store like Home Depot, you’ve bought a plant from Free State Growers.
Do you have a poinsettia in your home or office? It most likely came from Free State Growers! Photo Credit: Free State Growers
Today, three years after the tornado caused so much damage, the company is going strong. They are still hard at work making sure their clients get the best quality plants to sell in their stores.
Their facility isn’t open to the public, but you can still get a peek at the plants they grow. To see more photos, follow Free State Growers on Facebook and Instagram. You’ll see vibrant photos of flowers all year round.
Mize CPAs is proud to provide monthly financials, bill pay, payroll, consulting, and income tax services to Free State Growers. Mark says, “Doing business with Mize is more like a partnership. Their team has provided our company with Financials, AP, Payroll, and Tax prep support for several years. In addition to that, they provide us with financial reporting and guidance that helps us plan for future banking decisions or long-term expansion goals. For a company of our size, it is like having a dedicated team in the back office that has the same goals as Free State Growers and wants to continue to make us successful.”
We’ve been working with Free State Growers since 2012 and look forward to working with them for many more years to come.