Arie Luiten savors his daily ‘bakkie’ in the new Luiten Greenhouse facility

Staff
6 Min Read

Mother’s Day is over, the growers in the area are less busy, so it’s time for a celebration, thought Arie Luiten of Luiten Greenhouse Tech. So, what do you do? Open a new company building. On May 30th, he’s holding an open house at his new location in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

New Building
Arie didn’t expect that after 40 years in the American horticultural industry, he would open a new building, especially since he moved to the US at 19. His company, Luiten Shading, mainly active in installing screen systems, has shared a location with their good friends at Total Energy for 20 years. First, they rented a building, and then they moved to a self-built location. “It was great, but it just got too small,” Arie explains practically. “Our long materials were stored in a wide-span greenhouse, which the township here wasn’t happy with. Without that greenhouse, we couldn’t store our stuff.” So, they had to move, and so far, he’s very pleased, Arie shares. “I have absolutely no regrets: our new location is fantastic. We have six times more space, we don’t have to share it, and it’s just a few minutes from my house.”

So, it’s time for a celebration. After Mother’s Day, because many of his potted plant sector customers are very busy until then. “For us, it’s relatively quiet until Mother’s Day, because growers only know after that whether it’s been a good season and how much they’ve earned. Then investments are made. The quotes are ready, and the coming weeks will involve a lot of office work.”

After a relatively quiet year, things are looking more positive. “Last year was clearly slower – or maybe it was just back to normal. During and after the pandemic, potted plant growers had really great years. That shook up the market a lot. Last year, growers were cautious. You saw that everywhere: it wasn’t a great year in the Netherlands either.”

Saving
The potted plant market in the US is largely determined by big chains like Home Depot. Despite skyrocketing inflation and rising labor and energy costs, the prices of potted plants haven’t really gone up. “The only thing growers can do is try to grow their plants more cheaply. Save on labor and energy,” he summarizes. Because of this, Arie’s business is picking up again. “Because gas prices remain so significant, screen installations are in demand. They provide energy savings and shade, which is exactly what growers need. They also don’t have to chalk in the summer, which saves labor and results in better climate control. Due to smaller margins, the payback period is now maybe 4 to 5 years instead of the 3 years it used to be, but growers can’t do without it.”

For Arie, the quieter year wasn’t so bad because he bought two existing buildings: one of 10,000 sqft and one of 5,000 sqft. “And setting them up and organizing took quite a bit of time too.”

Relationships
That’s now done, and the move is complete. The Luiten Shading team now consists of 10 people, six of whom work in the field. “We mainly focus on smaller nurseries: up to about 5 or 6 hectares. Larger requests go to my brothers in the Netherlands (Luiten Greenhouses, ed.).” This approach works well for Arie – and his customers too. He can’t really name a specific project he’s particularly proud of. “Every project we do is important. We mostly work with family businesses: growers who work on their own farms and have grown over the years. We’ve known them for years. If I have to be proud of something, it’s when I get a call from a grower about an hour away. He told me he called various companies in the region, and everyone recommended us. Those are the things I really love to hear.”

That’s what it’s all about, according to Arie: maintaining good relationships. Despite his four decades in American greenhouse horticulture, he keeps those relationships with the Netherlands too, and there’s certainly a Dutch touch in the new location. Despite the American enthusiasm for coffee to go, he prefers his good old Dutch ‘bakkie’, which is why there is a good coffee machine in the new company’s kitchen. “I might have moved here 3 decades ago, but I want to enjoy a ‘bakkie’ with my team and my customers every now and then.”

It won’t be just coffee on the 30th, but hamburgers and pulled pork will be ready. Growers and associates are welcome from 11 AM to 3 PM at 7025 E N Ave Kalamazoo Michigan 49048.

Voor meer informatie:
Arie Luiten (e-mail)
Luiten Greenhouse Tech

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