Cleveland Road Greenhouse to close

SANDUSKY One branch of the Corso family tree is being trimmed. Owners of Cleveland Ro
Annie Zelm
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

One branch of the Corso family tree is being trimmed.

Owners of Cleveland Road Greenhouse, 2073 Cleveland Road, Sandusky, confirmed plans Monday to close their retail division Sept. 30.

The business is not affiliated with Corso's Flower & Garden Center, but both stem from the same family.

Judy Corso, who co-owns the retail operation with her husband, Jim, and their son, Jeff, said the decision leaves her with mixed emotions.

"We're sad, but happy to be moving on at the same time," Judy Corso said. "It's been a wonderful life for us -- we'd just like to do other things.

Corso, 60, said she and her family began to re-examine their priorities and concluded life was too short to continue the labor-intensive business for seven days a week at their age.

Judy and Jim wanted to spend more time with their seven grandchildren and become more involved in community activities.

Their son, Jeff, seldom took a break from the daily duties of watering plants and monitoring the boiler to maintain precise temperatures within the greenhouses. He plans to pursue another job within the industry.

The cost of utilities, increased competition from chain growers and the decreased popularity of funeral flowers also factored into their decision to close, Corso said.

She said she believes the common practice of listing memorial contributions "in lieu of flowers" for the deceased negatively impacted their business.

The price of natural gas used to heat their greenhouses is skyrocketing and expected to rise even higher next winter. Corso estimated the family spent $80,000 on gas alone last year.

Though Corso said she and her family look forward to making career changes, she'll miss the loyal customers and friends she's made during nearly 30 years in business.

Her husband's father, August Corso Jr., started in business as a produce farmer and salesman. By 1944, his off-the-truck sales evolved into a floral shop and greenhouse. Members of the Corso family originally operated out of locations on Bogart Road and relocated during World War II, when NASA purchased the property for its Plum Brook station.

Several of the Corsos then branched off to start their own ventures. Jim's brother, Chuck Corso, operates a primarily wholesale business called Colonial Gardens on Hull Road, and their cousin, Gus Corso, owns Corso's Flower & Garden Center on Milan Road.

Jim Corso grew up next door to Cleveland Road Greenhouse and worked alongside his parents from an early age. He went on to earn a master's degree in floriculture. In 1980, Jim and Judy purchased the business and constructed a new retail shop three years later.

They operated more than a dozen greenhouses on their four-acre property and specialized in unique plants and produce.

At one time, they grew more than 40 varieties of tomatoes and were also known for their fern baskets.

"We grow a little of a lot of things -- things people can't find other places," Corso said. "We were always known for our quality."

Corso's Flower & Garden Center owner Gus Corso said he can relate to the challenges his relatives experienced in the industry.

"I hate to see them close," he said. "It's getting more difficult for all retail operations these days because of the economy, fuel costs and a lot of factors ... and it hurts all of us."

The Corsos plan to run a close-out sale beginning Aug. 11, cutting prices by 50 percent or more until they close the retail division Sept. 30.

They plan to lease the retail building and retain their greenhouses, though Judy Corso said she's not yet sure how they will be used.