By an odd twist of fate, Lynn Stender is running her second-generation landscape business out of the former Chevy dealership in Durant, Iowa, where she bought her first car years ago.
Stender owns and operates Kuehl's Landscape & Design, a company founded two decades ago by her father Jim Kuehl. Two years ago, Stender and her husband Shawn purchased the vacant storefront that had been the longtime home of Wilson's Chevrolet dealership (and last housed a Krieger's dealership).
"It's a car showroom, so we have the large display windows and we're working on having a nice showroom of our own," she said. After a lot of work and care, she said the 1900s building is becoming a showcase for the landscape and design work Kuehl's offers — from landscaping and design to hardscaping, patios, retaining walls, irrigation and sodding.
But Kuehl will join more than 100 other landscape- and garden-related companies next weekend as the vendors set up shop temporarily at the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island for the Flower & Garden Show. The annual QCCA show runs from Friday, March 24, to Sunday, March 26.
Kuehl's will create one of the dozen garden displays that will greet the show's visitors. After a winter slowdown, Stender said "It's a nice way to ease back into work after having time off and to get back in the groove."
Besides landscaping and gardening, the annual show features a variety of other products from outdoor furniture, lawn equipment, building materials, artwork, pools and spas, and more.
Joel Wagener and his Superior Sheds company will be on hand to show the custom sheds designed and built at his 18-year-old company in west Rock Island. "We're mainly a custom storage shed builder," he said, adding that the custom work has "really taken off in the last four or five years."
When he began in the business, storage sheds were just that — traditional, square structures. "There's nothing normal anymore," he said. "Customers want a garden shed or a studio. We designed one so the woman could sit in her shed and have wine in it."
The shed that Superior Sheds will display sports a dormer on the roof. ''Sheds have really become an extension of the house," said Wagener, whose business now spans two generations with his son Tyler.
Located at 406 24th Ave., Superior Sheds sells directly to its customers as well as through "a handful of dealers," he said.
Meyer Landscape & Design, located in Moline, will be on hand with a new garden display that Jason Carlson, a landscape designer, said will be "more of a simple, formal garden — like an English garden."
The longtime business decided to change it up this year, he said. "Rather than the expansive patio, we're going to be a little smaller and intimate."
This year's design will include a sundial, a variety of plants and new pavers. "They're not just 4x8 bricks anymore. There are so many different sizes, colors and textures," Carlson said of the wet cast concrete pavers. "They are more durable and ... there's just thousands of them (to chose from)."
Carlson said part of his job to help a customer sort through all the choices and options without getting overwhelmed.
Aunt Rhodie's, a 30-year-old landscape business in the Village of East Davenport, also will be back at the Flower & Garden Show with one of the main garden displays. But Todd Wiebenga, who owns the business with his wife Mandy, said it too will focus on a smaller scale this year.
"Rather than do something that is super extravagant, expensive and out of touch with what the typical homeowner can handle, we're trying to show a patio that the average homeowner can envision in their backyard," he said.
Aunt Rhodie's also will prominently display a new concrete paver, known as Rosetta Hardscapes, that is produced in Iowa by King's Material in Cedar Rapids. The concrete block and masonry product manufacturer also has local operations in Eldridge.
"It looks like natural flagstone with irregular shapes and sizes, but it's a concrete paver," Wiebenga said.
A supporter since the show's beginning, he said the show is a great partnership for the vendors, who can meet new customers, and for the QCCA, which uses the show as a fundraiser for its conservation efforts.
"It's a good way to start out the year and a good event for the Quad-Cities to allow people to come inside where it's still warm and see beautiful flowers and ideas...," Wiebenga said.