The business we see today began as a small greenhouse selling seasonal potted plants in 1961 by Gerrit and Pieternella Vermeer, or Jerry and Nell, as they were always known. They were born in the region of Westland, the Netherlands, and started their married life there in February 1952.
They along with thousands of other immigrants came to Canada in March 1952, where they joined two of Jerry’s brothers in St. Thomas, Ontario. Jerry worked for the grounds keeping department at the St. Thomas hospital and Nell stayed home where their first three children, Margaret, Irene, and Karin were born.
In December 1961, Jerry and Nell purchased Emmon’s Flowers on South Pelham Road in Welland, Ontario. Their family of 5 grew to 7 with the arrival of brother Gerry (pronounced Gary) and sister Lorraine born here in Welland.
Times were tough as they worked hard to start a new business and provide a good happy home for their family. Mrs. Felicetta Leone became Vermeer’s first employee in 1963 and worked at Vermeer’s for 50 years!
There has always been something growin’ on at Vermeer’s!
The first crops grown at Vermeer’s included potted Easter lilies, bedding plants, and cut flowers such as chrysanthemums and snapdragons. Even tomatoes and cucumbers were grown before the decision was made to grow only seasonal potted plants and bedding plants. We now grow poinsettias, Easter lilies, hydrangeas, primulas, oxalis (shamrocks), bedding plants and hanging baskets in our production area which now covers approximately 70,000 sq. ft. In the summer of 1975, a retail shop was built with various renovations occurring throughout the years.
One of the largest expansions was in 1999, when we built an addition of 2,000 sq. ft. plus offices, now giving our customers 4,000 sq. ft. of shopping area. The dream of becoming a garden centre became a reality with the first wing of the garden centre being built in 1997, and the second wing opening only one year later. Jerry’s ambition of a family business was in place when he died in January 1999. Nell was blessed to watch the business grow for another 20 years until she passed away in May 2019.
After a lifetime of running the retail operations at Vermeer’s, Karin retired in 2011, selling her half of the business to her brother Gerry. Gerry continues to manage the wholesale operation with Margaret’s twin sons, Ryan and Reuben. Margaret and Cynthia (Gerry’s wife) are also very actively involved with the business.
Irene’s life was lost to breast cancer in 1993. Her daughters are still a big part of Vermeer’s, stopping in often to visit with their young children. Lorraine lives in Michigan with her husband Bret and their 4 children.