A family affair: Gordon Schalow reflects on 50 years in business
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — By any measure running a small or medium-sized business is difficult work. For over 50 years, hard work has been a family tradition at Schalow’s Nursery.
Company president Gordon Schalow’s father, Dave Schalow, started the business in 1965 after deciding to branch off from a separate nursery where he was employed.
Gordon started working for the nursery in 1976 and over a period of many years transitioned into owning and running the business, though Dave still contributes.
“He’s still working for us. It’s one of those things. It was his baby, and he doesn’t want to give it up,” Gordon said of his father. Gordon’s brothers, Rog and Mark, are involved with the nursery as well.
The company operates a garden center, performs lawn care and maintenance, provides plant care and installation, and does irrigation work. The demanding projects are what Gordon said he has most relished throughout his career.
“I think the high points (are) the different challenging projects that we’ve been able to work on as a company,” Gordon said. He cited his company’s work on Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital in Weston as one of Schalow’s biggest undertakings.
“We did everything from the irrigation installation to plant installation, a lot of hardscape work, retaining walls out of natural stone,” Gordon said. “It was a real fun project.”
Schalow’s service area extends about 100 miles from Marshfield. Gordon said that competing with big box stores is a challenge for his business.
“We’re hoping with a personal touch and with a very knowledgeable staff that we can compete with whatever gets thrown at us here in the future,” he said.
The staff is composed of 40-45 employees during the peak of the busy season. Gordon said that the company recruits college students as seasonal staff, particularly those majoring in fields like urban forestry or horticulture.
Gordon himself has a degree from Milwaukee Area Technical College in horticulture.
The next 50 years
2015 was Schalow’s golden anniversary, but instead of reflecting on what has been, the company is looking forward.
Over the summer Schalow’s constructed a new facility at its location on the southeast side of Marshfield, which will broaden the scope of services offered. Gordy said that the building would house products geared toward do-it-yourself enthusiasts and that items like “statuary, pottery, fountains, (and) plant care products” will be available.
“It’s going to be more consumer friendly than what we had in the past,” Gordon said. “We want to take it another next level. We’ve been in business 50 years. We want to be a stable company for the next 50 as well.”
The new facility will open April 1 and will be connected to the existing garden center. Gordon’s son-in-law and his business constructed the new building. The vision for the new facility was in part developed by Gordon’s daughter Katie, who is an architect.
“Part of the expansion and growth is for the hopes of a third generation (running the business),” Gordon said. “We’re proud to be in Marshfield, proud to be part of Marshfield’s community, and we’d love to see it stay as a family business.”
“It’s (Marshfield) just a great place to raise a family,” Gordon added.
Gordon, who is 57, said he wanted to run the company for about the next eight to 10 years before handing it off to the next generation. He said during the busiest times of year it is not uncommon for him to put in 70-80 hours in a week.
When asked if it was a grind to put in those rigorous hours, Gordon said, “You know, when you enjoy what you do, it isn’t.”
“As a kid growing up, we were part of the 50 years that we’ve been in business, so it’s kind of in your blood, and there’s a lot of pride because your name is being put out on that product or project,” Gordon said.