The feeling was akin to the first time I ever snorkeled, complete awe. My carefully prepared interview questions were left on a side table. This isn’t just any old greenhouse. It's the Crump Greenhouse, located down a side road in Buena Vista, Colorado. Mike Crump, guided me shirtless - his work uniform, through the aisles of succulents and cacti, while sharing their business story. He was a miner and when times changed, he turned to plants. Initially, he specialized in selling rare plants for collectors. He began collecting, growing and cultivating succulents and cacti in 1979. This giant jade tree is at least that old and its offspring now live in houses throughout Colorado and beyond.
Mike runs this business with his wife Rita Auer. This greenhouse dog greeted me at the gate and impressively led me down the drive to the greenhouse door. A job well done, he chooses non-spiny companions to settle down with for his afternoon nap.
Even before the recent succulent craze, the Crump Greenhouse was busy. They are currently not accepting new customers and I am on the wait list for fall. I have no idea how many different types of succulents were in that greenhouse. Asking felt silly. There were two greenhouses full of plants, nearly every tray was different. I was speechless.
I did ask which ones were the best-selling, but then found out this question wasn’t relevant. Just like in those upscale restaurants, it's up to the chef. As a customer you can specify succulents or cacti and the size of the containers - 3, 4 or 5 inch. A typical sales conversation goes like this: Customer, “We would like 20 crates.” Crump Greenhouse, “Yes, we have 8 crates for you.”
I didn’t want to leave. It had been over two hours and I knew that I couldn’t overstay my welcome. If I wait until July, I have a few weeks on me to invent a reason for my return.
Early next week, I will share the tips that I learned about caring for and propagating succulents.