All in the family tree: Greenhouse Florist and Nursery is still going strong after 60 years in Oak Harbor

Henry Vanden Haak and his sister Audrey Butler still own and run the business their parents bought 60 years ago.  - Sara Hansen/Whidbey News-Times
Henry Vanden Haak and his sister Audrey Butler still own and run the business their parents bought 60 years ago.
— image credit: Sara Hansen/Whidbey News-Times

For 60 years the Greenhouse Florist and Nursery has been a fixture in the Oak Harbor business community.

Siblings and owners, Henry Vanden Haak and Audrey Butler, said the business has been in the family since 1954, but the business itself has been around for nearly 70 years. It used to be in two locations: one on Midway where Traders Village is, and at a second spot called Antone’s Florist.

It didn’t move to its current location on Seventh Avenue until around 1980.

Their parents moved from Holland where their father had been a vegetable grower. It wasn’t until purchasing a business did their mother become involved with the florist and nursery industry.

But as kids, the trade came to Butler and Vanden Haak naturally.

All five of the children were originally part of the business, but over the years some have bowed out, leaving Butler and Vanden Haak to carry on their parent’s tradition.

When the siblings took over the business, a lawyer gave them a little piece of advice for working together: flip a coin when they were at an impasse for a decision.

“We’ve never had to flip a coin,” Butler said.

Over the years, Vanden Haak and Butler have found their niches with the business. Butler takes care of the florist side of the business, while Vanden Haak focuses on the nursery. Of course, as with all small businesses, there is overlap. If something needs to be done, they’ll both jump right in.

“I’ll lug a tree and he’ll design flowers” Butler said.

One of the keys to staying open for so long is following the economy. Making adjustments and being able to “go with the flow” and treating their customers well has helped with the business’ longevity, Butler said.

Also the expertise they’ve gained from the years of growing plants has helped with their success, Vanden Haak said.

“That knowledge helps people, and that is a successful business model,” Vanden Haak said.

To celebrate 60 years, the Greenhouse will offer classes and other customer appreciation events that are still in the works.

“Every month we’re planning something,” Butler said.

One of the features at the store is Vanden Haak’s bonsai trees. He started learning the art of bonsai trees in the late ’80s.

“It’s a never ending piece of art,” Vanden Haak said. “It’s constantly evolving and changing.”

It’s a life project you sign up for, Butler said.

“You are the master of its change,” Vanden Haak said.

For Butler, her enjoyment comes from helping customers.

“A hundred different things could be going on, and we’re there to help them and walk them through it,” Butler said.

For example, one customer came in whose mother had recently died, and she wanted the arrangement to represent her mother for the service.

“It’s taking all those bits and pieces of her mother’s life to make it a personal piece,” Butler said.

Vanden Haak and Butler are hoping to pass the torch to the next generation of family members. All of their kids have worked there off and on as they got to be old enough, and currently some are working at the business.

“That’s what our parents set it up to be,” Vanden Haak said. “It’s offered to those members.”

But ultimately the enjoyment of the job is what keeps the siblings happy after all these years.

“Watering plants, having your fingers in the dirt — it takes you back home to where it starts,” Vanden Haak said.


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