SYCAMORE – Joel Barczak has learned a lot over the past 25 years as the owner of Blumen Gardens, 403 Edward St., Sycamore.
Barczak, who owns the business with his wife, Joan, has learned about how good people can be and how much gardening means to some of them.
"For people, gardening is spiritual," he said. "I never realized the psychological and physical [benefits] of what gardening does. We're fulfilling these things in people."
This year marks 25 years in business for Barczak and his wife, who both worked at plant nurseries before starting their own business. They bought the house across the street from Blumen Gardens in 1988 and, a year later, transformed the once empty, weed-filled space into one filled with a multitude of flowers and plants.
The couple's initial intention was not to stay in Sycamore. They bought their house with the goal of fixing it up then selling it after a couple of years. However, they ended up falling in love with the town.
"Sycamore has an attitude of volunteering and helping people," Barczak said. "We're a part of Sycamore."
Barczak acquired portions of what is now Blumen Gardens over time. Some of it was purchased in 1996 and the rest in 1999. One of the buildings he bought was built in 1869 and was restored in 1999.
Business has evolved over the years. Around the same time of the economic downturn that affected Barczak so harshly he considered closing Blumen Gardens, he began offering space for wedding receptions.
Now, that part of business has taken off while retail has gone flat over the past six or seven years, Barczak said.
"People are always getting married," he said. Blumen Gardens generally holds two wedding receptions a week from April to November.
People from all across northern Illinois come to Blumen Gardens to shop. Winnebago resident Amy Atkinson stopped by Friday for the first time in a couple of years. She used to travel to Blumen Gardens from her Oregon home.
Atkinson was looking around on Friday to add to her garden, which includes both shade and sun plants.
"It's very peaceful," she said. "It's very, very unique and very different. It's a fun place to come."
St. Charles resident Christine Guarise agrees. As a customer for the past 10 years, Guarise has bought plants – such as brunneras and hostas – that are now part of her woodland garden.
"It's unique," she said. "The ambiance, the flowers, the gardens. It's my favorite place to come."