This winter has been especially hard and long, no one knows that better than Shannon Elliot, owner of Downing’s Greenhouses located north of the White Pines School on Trunk Road.
Elliot took over the business from her Father, Art Downing, who passed away in January 2016. Downing started the business in Bar River over 40 years ago and moved it to it’s Sault Ste. Marie location in the 1990s when he bought the location from Manitou. The business started in 1973. Art Downing was well known for his generosity, kindness, donations and support for local businesses within the district of Algoma and beyond.
Elliot and her husband George have kept her Father’s legacy going but this year it’s going to be a challenge thanks to Mother Nature.
About three weeks ago Elliot received a call from a teacher at White Pines. The teacher told Elliot over the phone that they heard a large crashing sound. That sound turned out to be 8 large greenhouses collapsing from the weight of the snow.
When Elliot and her husband came to see what had happened they were overwhelmed with what they found.
9 of the 10 greenhouses were nothing but mangled plastic and steel. The greenhouses were all attached and “fell like domino’s” Elliot told SaultOnline.com
“We will probably will be able to save the first two, one and a half are still up and my husband thinks he can fix the second one”
Shannon stands in front of one of the Greenhouses still standing “We will rebuild”
The greenhouses were used to grow annuals and perennials as well as shrubs and trees but the majority of her business was from selling flowers. That won’t happen this year when she opens the business for the season on May 1st.
Replacing the greenhouses will be a huge challenge for the couple, “they cost between 8 to 10 thousand each” When Elliot took over the business she just renewed the insurance policy her Father had, which only covered liability. “I just renewed it without really thinking about it”
“We’re going to rebuild, it may take us a few years but we will be open this year” Elliot said as she looked over the damage now covered with a blanket of snow.
Each greenhouse will cost about 8 to 10 thousand each to rebuild
“We just have to change a few things on what we can offer this year, we plan on being the go to place for trees and shrubs, more variety and may just plant hanging baskets this year” Elliot said. “We’re just going to adjust , I refuse to give up”
“It’s been heart breaking, it’s been a rough winter” Both Shannon and George work full time jobs apart from running and operating the greenhouse.
A friend of the family took it upon himself to try to help by launching a crowd funding initiative to help offset the estimated $100,000 it’s going to take to rebuild. Those interested can go HERE
“I for one would hate to see the greenhouse close. Its small businesses like Downing’s Greenhouse, that keep small communities close together. Please support my good friend Shannon, and her husband George rebuild this fine greenhouse.” Brandon Printess, close friend who started the campaign said.
The small business employees 5 to 6 people during the season. Elliot says they will be open on May 1st and operates until early September.