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Published May 10, 2009, 12:00 AM

FACES AND PLACES: Love of family, gardening simply mother’s nature

Georgia Heitmann’s daughters — Jan Heitmann and Jill Kiel — share her passion for making things grow
Gardening is the life for Georgia Heitmann and her daughters Jan Heitmann and Jill Kiel. For the three women, growing, nurturing and selling plants, flowers and trees at All Season’s Garden Center is not a job, but a vocation. “It’s a love,” Georgia said. And she and her daughters enjoy sharing that love of nature and growing things with others. “It’s part of our being,” Georgia said. “I can’t imagine a better job in North Dakota than living and being with nature.”

By: Ann Bailey, Grand Forks Herald

Gardening is the life for Georgia Heitmann and her daughters Jan Heitmann and Jill Kiel.

For the three women, growing, nurturing and selling plants, flowers and trees at All Season’s Garden Center is not a job, but a vocation.

“It’s a love,” Georgia said. And she and her daughters enjoy sharing that love of nature and growing things with others.

“It’s part of our being,” Georgia said. “I can’t imagine a better job in North Dakota than living and being with nature.”

Her daughters, Jan Heitmann and Jill Kiel, practically grew up in garden centers, first in Langdon, N.D., then in Grand Forks. Georgia’s husband, Dieter, then a masonry contractor, started a garden center in Langdon in 1970 when Jill was just two weeks old. The Heitmanns lived in a small apartment adjoining the greenhouse and the children played and worked along side their parents.

“The kids have always helped from the time they were little,” Georgia said. Jill recalls ringing up sales for customers when she was 10.

“I would stand on a stool because I couldn’t see over the cash register,” Jill said.

The Heitmanns moved to Grand Forks in the fall of 1978 and opened All Season’s Garden Center in the spring of 1979. They rented a house about a mile east of the garden center and each day after school, Jan and Jill got off of the bus and headed to the garden center.

After they graduated from Red River High School, Jan in 1986, and Jill in 1988, both attended UND. Jan took classes in business management and Jill graduated in 1994 with degrees in information management and business management.

Family business

“This was always my career choice,” Jill said. “It’s a great business to work in as a family.”

“It’s exciting to get up in the morning and come to work,” Georgia said.

The sisters and Jill’s husband, Scott Kiel, together with Georgia and Dieter, run All Seasons. The Kiels’ sons Jacob, 12, Adam, 10, and Nicholas, 9, also help at the garden center.

Jill manages the business office and the garden store while Jan oversees the flower shop and the gift shop. In the spring Jan also spends a lot of time in the greenhouse.

“I like the growing part of it. I like the seasonal changes,” Jan said.

Georgia, meanwhile, works in the office and helps with spring greenhouse production. Dieter oversees the nursery production and does general maintenance at the garden center.

All Seasons also employs 27 people part-time and full-time and this spring hired another 20 employees for seasonal work. Though the Heitmanns and their employees each have certain duties, they all help out wherever it’s needed. The variety is something the Heitmanns enjoy.

“It’s not the same thing day after day,” Jill said.

Though their duties may vary on a given day, one thing the family knows is that during All Seasons peak season, which runs from late April to early June, they will be putting in long hours.

“This is an intense business because of the seasonality,” Georgia said. “We’re all here 12 hours a day, seven days a week for six to seven weeks.”

A special day

One of the garden center’s biggest days of the year and one of the Heitmann’s favorites will be today, Mother’s Day.

“We have an open house at the garden center and serve cake and lemonade,” Georgia said. “The neat thing about Mother’s Day is you get families. You’ll see three generations or four generations.”

The families enjoy strolling through the garden center, looking at the plants and generally enjoying the day, Georgia said.

After the center closes at 5 p.m., the Heitmanns will celebrate Mother’s Day.

“Somebody will make supper and we’ll all have supper together,” Georgia said. The families enjoy spending time together after work. “We vacation together. We spend weekends together when we’re not at work.”

Georgia is pleased her daughters want to be in the garden center business and has enjoyed watching them learn the ins and out of the industry.

“It is wonderful to see. You’re just the proud parent.”

Bailey writes for special features sections. Reach her at (701) 787-6753; (800) 477-6572, ext. 753; or send e-mail to abailey@gfherald.com.

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