Mill Creek Gardens owners take root in Marshfield community as they see business blossom
Neither Erik nor Danielle Winer planned to run a greenhouse or flower business, but have gone all-in with Mill Creek Gardens. Mitchell A. Skurzewski/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
MARSHFIELD - Danielle Winer never thought she would be a farmer or would grow flowers for a living.
But that's what Danielle and her husband, Erik, are doing, and now they are growing next year's flowers and plants at Mill Creek Gardens on the south side of Marshfield with over 30,000 plants sprouting under the controlled temperature of their greenhouse.
Danielle, who majored in psychology while playing volleyball at Marquette University, was dating Erik in 2011 when he decided to make what turned into a life-altering decision to buy Mill Creek Gardens. Erik majored in engineering at Milwaukee School of Engineering and was on the rowing team, but he had some experience in landscape, but not on this scale.
"My brother started a lawn and landscape business and around 14 I bought the business from him and got more and more into landscaping," Erik said. "I had always picked up plants at Mill Creek Gardens and I joked about buying the business and then it became available and it was kind of a no-brainer."
Before digging into running Mill Creek Gardens, Danielle helped Marquette to its first two NCAA Tournament appearances and served as team captain during her senior season in 2012. Danielle joined the Iowa Hawkeye coaching staff in 2014 after a professional volleyball career in the Gislaved Volleyball Klub of Gislaved, Sweden.
She and Erik dated on and off, but three years ago in 2015 Danielle decided to move back to Wisconsin. The couple has gone "all-in" on the flower business and their relationship, marrying in 2015.
"It's pretty wild, really. Neither of us thought we'd be doing this," Danielle said.
And their business is blossoming. Cut flowers for bouquets are booming and is a reason the couple are in the midst of building two more greenhouses.
"We knew the only way to grow was having her there full-time," Erik said. "We needed to invest in it full-time. What Danielle has added, she really brought in the atmosphere and these workshops. Success has looked different from when I first bought it to what it is now. Working with people and providing a fun experience is exactly what Danielle and I love to do."
The Marshfield natives know many people in the area and they've done their part in maintaining relationships with the community. Mill Creek Gardens holds interactive workshops with locals on a regular basis, they've built a flower cart for branding at events such as Maple Fall Fest and Hub City Days, and they've worked with businesses to plant flowers in summer and fall in downtown Marshfield as part of Main Street Marshfield's beautification project.
Running Mill Creek Gardens is also a family affair — Erik's parents, Bruce and Sherri, were pivotal in helping him originally purchase the building, but they also remain heavily involved in the business, Danielle said. Sherri helps run some of the workshops, and Bruce does a little bit of everything.
"People want an experience," Danielle said. "When you come to an event here, I want your hands to be dirty and I want you to be sweating and be with a friend or family member."
Danielle also said the business offers cheat sheets for customers she has created to help them keep odd plants, such as cacti and succulents that are uncommon in Wisconsin, alive and healthy.
"The flowers, the effect they have on others — that's why I do it," she said. "I love that part and enriching people's lives."
She wasn't sure if she would enjoy it when she first started, but Danielle has embraced being a farmer and being back in Marshfield.
"It's about personal connections, that's why we're successful," she said. "We know a lot of people, but I think more than that. It's the quality and our openness to customers and creating relationships. Erik and I love Marshfield, and we're happy to serve and create happiness for our customers."
Mill Creek Gardens is located at 8839 Mill Creek Drive. For more info call 715-591-2000 or email email@example.com. The business opens for the season on April 20., but people can set up an appointment with Mill Creek Gardens to shop succulents, cact and other houseplants