Thomsens Garden Center has new owners


by Dennis Dalman

news@thenewsleaders.com

Thomsens Garden Center in Collegeville, northwest of St. Joseph, now has new owners – Steph and Ryan Roder, who live in Buffalo.

Arno Shermock, the owner-operator of Thomsens for the past 15 years, recently sold the business to the Roders. Shermock said he intends to keep working at the greenhouse through the growing season, along with its new owners. Thomsens, which started in the late 1970s, has come to be the largest greenhouse under glass in central Minnesota and attracts customers from a large area.

Bob and Bonnie Thomsen were the founders and owners-operators of the greenhouse for its first decade or so, until they sold the business to Shermock.

During an interview with the Newsleader, the Roders said they decided to buy Thomsens because it’s a perennially successful garden center, adding they plan to keep the same “great” employee team and will offer the center’s high-quality annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees .

Thomsens is located at 29754 156th Ave., rural St. Joseph. The greenhouse opens the first day of April every year.

The garden center grows and sells flowers, vegetable seedlings, herbs, decorative plants, shrubs, trees, bags of soil and fertilizer and a variety of garden supplies, such as ceramic pots of various sizes.

The center is also known for hosting special events, such as a spring hanging basket-planting party, classes on how to create floral arrangements and a fall “garage” sale.

The Roders plan to expand on those year-round programs.

The Roders

Steph was born in Dayton; Ryan was born in northwest Iowa, raised on a large corn-and-soybean farm.

Ryan and Steph graduated from college in 1997, he with a degree in accounting from St. John’s University, she with degrees in social work and psychology from the College of St. Benedict. Eight years later Ryan later earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Colorado, Denver.

In their college years, Steph and Ryan were aware of each other as fellow students but not that well. After graduation, Steph moved to Denver with three fellow graduates. One of them had been a roommate of Ryan Roder. One day, Ryan visited his friend in Denver. That is where Steph and Ryan took a liking to one another and began to date.

Steph moved to San Francisco with another friend. A bit later, Ryan moved there, too, and they became engaged and then married.

The couple worked in San Francisco before moving back to Denver. Ryan held a variety of jobs in Edina, San Francisco and Denver for major companies as a corporate accountant, financial advisor and controller. In San Francisco, Steph had been an engineering recruiter for telephone companies. The start-up firm for which she worked decided to open a new office in Denver. That is when she and Ryan decided to move back to Colorado.

Their first child, a son, was born there in 2004. That fall, they decided to move back to Minnesota – to Buffalo. Steph became a stay-at-home mom but also worked as a travel agent from her home and also put her knack for decorating to good use by becoming an interior designer for residential and business customers.

Ryan continued his financial/corporate work in the Twin Cities area, commuting from Buffalo. Some jobs required him to travel far and wide, but much of his work was done from home, especially during the pandemic.

The Roders began to ponder owning a business of their own. Steph’s mother, Janice, had worked in gardening centers for years, first in Missouri, later as co-owner of J&M Plants Emporium in Hopkins. Steph, while growing up, learned a lot about the greenhouse/gardening business from her mother.

The Roders began to check out such greenhouse businesses and were immediately impressed by Thomsens when they visited there.

Tragically, in 2020, Ryan’s parents both died of COVID-19. Their seven offspring decided to sell the northwest Iowa farmland, and that sale allowed Ryan enough money to buy Thomsens. They bought Thomsens on Oct. 5.

Steph’s mother, Janice, with her extensive knowledge and experience of greenhouse work, has agreed to help out at Thomsens. She already calls the greenhouse her “happy place.”

The Roders have four children, two sons: Cayler, 18, and Blaise, 9; and two daughters: Cici, 15, and Keaton, 12.

Thomsens

Thomsens Garden Center opens for business the first day of April every year and stays open even into the fall.

The garden center grows and sells flowers, vegetable seedlings, herbs, decorative plants, shrubs, trees, bags of soil and fertilizer and a variety of garden supplies, such as ceramic pots of various sizes.

The center is also known for hosting special events, such as a spring hanging basket-planting party, classes on how to create floral arrangements and a fall “garage” sale.

Thomsens management and work crews have long been practitioners of environmental sustainability. For example, all of the thousands of plastic pots, plastic trays and plastic sheeting used to grow seedlings are sanitized by hand every year and re-used many times over, season to season. Other items such as cardboard, wooden pallets and aluminum items are also re-used or recycled.

The Rodens said they intend to honor and to expand on all of Thomsens’ qualities.

contributed photo
Ryan and Stephanie Roder, who lives in Buffalo, are the new owners of Thomsens Garden Center near St. Joseph. She is a graduate of the College of St. Benedict; he graduated from st. John’s University.

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