Local farmer growing his business

Published 12:40 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tom Van Staalduinen, owner of Petals & Produce, displays a locally grown chrysanthemum Tuesday outside his greenhouses in Yeatesville. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

BizLine is a weekly feature highlighting local businesses serving Washington and Beaufort County. This week’s BizLine focuses on Petals & Produce, a Beaufort County garden center and produce market with two locations, one in Washington and one in Yeatesville.


Name of business: Petals & Produce

Name of owner(s): Tom Van Staalduinen

Addresses of business: 1101 John Small Ave., Washington, and 19821 U.S. Highway 264 East, Pinetown (the Yeatesville community)

Telephone number: 252-940-0012 (Washington) and 252-943-3116 (Yeatesville)

Date business opened: Spring 2000

Hours of operation: 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. in Yeatesville and 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. in Washington.

“We stay a little later in certain seasons, generally speaking,” Van Staalduinen said.

Petals & Produce is open year-round, except for a few days around Christmas and New Year’s.

Q: What type of business do you operate — what do you sell, or what service do you provide?

A: Retail garden center and produce market.

Q: Where are you from, and why did you decide to open your business in Beaufort County?

A: “I’m from Beaufort County, born and raised here,” he said. “I was managing a wholesale nursery for quite a few years and thought it would be nice to start one for myself.”

The business has expanded to two shops and offers a subscription-based, community-supported agriculture component to people who want to purchase its flowers and/or vegetables year-round.

The CSA program started with 36 subscribers and has grown to 107 participants.

“We had two miserable winters in a row so we don’t have as many signing up for the fall-winter one now as we did the spring-summer one,” Van Staalduinen said.

But the program goes on through the fall and winter months. This winter, Petals & Produce will offer greenhouse-raised tomatoes and cool-weather crops.

“We’ll have wintertime tomatoes all winter long,” he said.

Q: What experience do you have in this field?

A: “In high school I had an after-school and weekend job working in hogs, but then I went to Holland,” he said. “I had an uncle up in Holland who needed help remodeling greenhouses.”

He stayed in Holland for two years.

“That’s when I really got interested in greenhouses and horticulture,” he said.

Q: What sets your business apart from other similar businesses?

A: “I hope the fact that most everything we sell is a little higher quality and definitely fresh and local.”

Q: What types of customers do you hope to reach in Beaufort County?

A: Everyone.

“At both stores we’ve got a wide range, from income levels, ethnicities, everything,” he said.

But there is one segment of the community Van Staalduinen would like to grow into.

“The Hispanic population doesn’t shop with us very much,” he said. “That’s one customer base I’d love to reach.”

The business has a bilingual staff member who works mostly at the Yeatesville location.

Q: Why did you choose to open where you did?

A: “I owned this property and was renting farmland down here,” he said.

The enterprise started with one greenhouse, but has expanded to several greenhouses to meet customer demand.

Q: What are your plans for your company’s future?

A: “We’re just trying to really manage where our money’s going and also trying to give a product that hopefully stands out and makes people want to shop us,” he said.

Lately, the business has been selling chrysanthemums grown from rooted cuttings, collard plants (they’re sold out of these for now), seasonal squash and more.

Compiled by Jonathan Clayborne