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SYCAMORE - Joel Barczak, co-owner of Sycamore staple Blumen Gardens, is asking the DeKalb County Board to help convince state officials to ease restrictions on garden centers, deemed essential businesses amid shutdowns and stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"A large portion of our businesses coming up in May, Mother's Day, the whole 12 yards," Barczak said addressing the board Wednesday night via a Zoom public meeting. "So we're looking at support from the government. We're an agri-business. Some parties don't understand the elements of seasonal."
Under Gov. JB Pritzker's executive order enacted March 9, a stay-at-home order was placed upon the state which mandated all persons to work from home or venture outside only if absolutely necessary, and only businesses deemed essential could continue to operate. The intent was to slow the spread of the viral COVID-19.
According to the Illinois Department of Commerce, garden centers and landscaping operations are allowed to remain open, provided customer interaction is limited to online or telephone orders and pickup only.
“Garden stores and greenhouses can remain open for purposes of maintaining inventory, and to fulfill online and phone orders for pick-up or delivery only,' the order states. "This guidance applies to both standalone stores as well as garden centers that are part of a larger store (such as a garden center that is part of a hardware store or big box stores such as Lowes or Home Depot)."
In 2019, Joel and his wife, Joan Barczak, celebrated 30 years in business at 403 Edward St., in Sycamore, where they've built a garden, floral, and event center out of an old building built in 1860, originally used as a factory and then a weigh station for railroads.
Barczak said he's been in touch with State Rep. Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore), and he's attempting to solicit other support from countywide governing bodies in the form of letters to send to political leaders to help persuade the Illinois Department of Commerce to amend their verbiage and allow garden centers to operate beyond just delivery and curbside pickup during the pandemic.
"That's why I wanted to reach out to any Republican members, any democrat specific people who may know people further up in the food change to help support the issue of garden centers being essential," Barczak said.
The small business owner said he's noticed large corporate stores selling items in garden centers which go against what he's able to do at Blumen Gardens.
"Also about Lowes, Menards, Home Depots who are actually selling contrary to the Illinois Department of Commerce's dictation," he said. "We're running true to the letter of the law, bu there's parties out there that are not that are a bit of a bully. We're hoping for survival. We're a small business, and we appreciate your attention particularly the idea of a letter of support to the green industry."
In 1999, the Barczaks bought a portion of Blumen Gardens, the small, white shop that is now part of their retail space. As business grew, they purchased more of the space, eventually landing more land. Over the next 20 years, the couple kept busy renovating the space.
Now they employ about 38 people during the growing season, with minimum staff during the winter.