Klein’s Floral and Greenhouses was started in 1913 by Frederick and Susan Klein. Frederick came to the United State in 1909 from Germany and settled in Kansas City, KS. He ultimately moved to Ottumwa, IA where he met his future wife Susan. Frederick and Susan married in 1913 and moved to Madison where they bought a small greenhouse at the current East Washington Avenue location (then known as Sun Prairie Road). It consisted of 13 acres with a dwelling, two greenhouses, a barn and a chicken coop. They started out selling lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries and other fresh produce. Perennials such as delphiniums, peonies and iris were grown in the field where the Walgreen’s now stands.
Later Fredrick and Susan expanded into growing carnations and sweet peas. The sweet peas were grown in greenhouses #4 and #5 from beds on the ground and grew up strings to the ventilators. Later Frederick and Susan stated designing fresh arrangements. About 1930 Klein’s Floral and Greenhouses started delivery service using a 1929 Ford Model T delivery truck.
Frederick and Susan had three daughters, Gertrude, Elizabeth and Helen, and two sons, Walter and Oscar, all of whom worked in the greenhouses during their younger years. Gertrude and Elizabeth went on to other careers. Walter and his wife Marie operated Klein’s Floral and Greenhouses for a while before moving to Massachusetts to operate a floral shop there. After Walter and Marie left Helen operated the greenhouses with her husband, Bob Jensen, until her death in 1952 at 25 years of age. Meanwhile Oscar served in the Marines in World War II and the Korean War. He met Joyce Klopp from Port Washington, WI in 1953. They married a year later and moved to downtown Madison.
On July 19, 1954 a fire destroyed half of the greenhouses on the property. In 1955 Oscar and Joyce purchased the business from Frederick and Susan. They continued to grow the business, with Oscar running the back greenhouses and Joyce running the retail floral area. The back greenhouses have been added over the last 40 years. During this time they added more bedding plants and floral design services. Oscar’s sisters Gertrude and Elizabeth, as well as Joyce’s sisters Margaret and Delores, helped extensively over the years working weekends and major holidays.
Oscar and Joyce had one daughter Sue who grew up around the greenhouses. Joyce had her making corsages at age 2. She worked in the greenhouses after school and during summer and winter breaks throughout high school. She went on to UW Madison, earning a degree in Floriculture in 1987. In 1990 Sue bought Klein’s Floral and Greenhouses from her parents.
Sue Klein-Johnson still owns the greenhouses today. Sue has three boys, and a daughter.