Owen Nursery - Celebrating Over 80 Years of Growth
Our nursery in the early 1940's. The dirt road is Oakland Ave.
In 2012, Owen Nursery celebrated 80 years of serving our McLean county customers. We continue to be a family owned and operated company.
Owen Nursery was founded in 1932 by James Owen. James had a degree in Architectural Engineering from the University of Illinois. He worked for Charlie Hall (a local builder), who was like a father to him, since his own passed away when he was young. In the slow winter months of building, they sold three series of children's model homes, which James designed, called "Midget Towns." The crash of 1929 and the depression that followed put an end to designing homes. James began working at Augustine Nursery (Capt. Henry Augustine was his Father-in-law). He combined his knowledge of architecture and plants as a landscape architect. James landscaped exhibits at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1933, where he met his future wife, Marie
In the early 1930's James started his own nursery on Main Street. Years later, the site was home to Steak n Shake and is now home to Monical's Pizza. He had also developed a florist location, which was on Main Street in downtown Bloomington.
In the early 1940's, the James Owen Nursery opened for business on Oakland Avenue in Bloomington, Illinois, offering florist, nursery, and landscape services. James' wife, Marie made the floral arrangements. The business continued to operate at the Oakland Avenue location for nearly 50 years.
James Owen’s son, Richard followed in the footsteps of his father and would be the eventual successor to his father. As a young boy of six, Richard Owen sold geraniums for 10¢. This was a surprise to his parents who didn't know he was selling them! Decades later, we still sell those geraniums right out of our growing greenhouse so you can save money by buying directly from the grower.
As a teenager Richard Owen worked at the nursery during the summer and school vacations. In 1959 he graduated from the University of Illinois with his Bachelor of Science in Floriculture. He started running mail order advertisements for peonies, daylilies, iris and a combination ad in the St. Louis Post and Chicago American newspapers. Our extensive mail order business was born with a successful strawberry ad.
In 1946, the first mail order ads for strawberries were placed in newspapers. The mail order business took off. In fact, years later the post office was actually located in our shipping room at the back of our nursery.
In 1988 we moved to our current location at 1700 Morrissey Drive (Route 150 South) and have been expanding the grounds ever since. In the 1990's we opened two more Bloomington locations in an effort to better serve our customers, first on Clearwater Avenue and then on Main Street. The Main St. location is now “Shooting Star Gifts and Home Décor”, a gift shop owned by Richard Owen’s wife and daughter.
November 4, 2011 brought yet another change to the nursery. Richard Owen passed away leaving behind his wisdom and legacy for us to follow. All who worked for him miss him daily and our thoughts never wander far from times where we would see him in the hallway or at his desk
Plants had to be counted, tagged and wrapped before being shipped.
Shipping workers prepare plants to be shipped out to customers
In the 1950's, the U.S. Post Office was located in the back of our shipping area.
Silk flowers on display.
Working in the greenhouse on East Oakland in the 1940's
Today, our state-of-the-art greenhouse is open to the public in the spring and summer months.