CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - A new owner is set to grow a landmark Charlottetown business.
The Cassidy Group has assumed ownership of VanKampen’s Greenhouses, taking over from brothers Charlie and Billy VanKampen, the sons of the founder, on Dec. 1.
“My background is certainly farming as a youth,” said Mike Cassidy, president of The Cassidy Group, adding the Cassidy family operates a farm in Hampton.
“I spent years on the Riley Farm just in the Hamilton, Baltic area north of Kensington, so I certainly have an appreciation for agriculture . . . and . . . with these greenhouse operations, really, it’s farming and you’re farming in the city.’’
The business, located on Allen Street, had been in the VanKampen family for the past 60 years.
Gijsbertus (Gus) VanKampen, a Dutch immigrant, came to live in Charlottetown on March 31, 1953, and bought a small greenhouse business in 1959 that grew into what it is today, a landmark that covers 3.84 acres. Gus died in 2009.
“There was nobody in the (VanKampen) family that wanted to have any interest in a succession plan,’’ Cassidy said.
The VanKampen sons were very emotional in finalizing the sale, he said, but he assured the brothers that he was interested in the business, not just the land.
Cassidy vows to maintain not only the VanKampen legacy but will keep the name. He incorporated a company called Island Greenhouses and Fields Horticulture Inc. to buy the assets.
“Billy and Charlie and (myself) would sit at the kitchen table and we didn’t haggle and debate the price. We spent more time talking about values and vision and employees, customers, ideas that you can have in the marketplace, changes in the greenhouse.’’
“Every time we met it was at the kitchen table,’’ Cassidy said. “Billy and Charlie and (myself) would sit at the kitchen table and we didn’t haggle and debate the price. We spent more time talking about values and vision and employees, customers, ideas that you can have in the marketplace, changes in the greenhouse.’’
Billy and Charlie declined to be interviewed for this story but Charlie’s nephew, Peter Meijer, who’s been working in the greenhouse most of his life, offered a brief thought.
“It’s definitely going to be exciting,’’ Meijer said. “I’m looking forward to the year ahead.’’
At a glance
The Cassidy Group now includes T3 Transit, Cassidy Real Estate Holdings, VanKampen’s, Coach Atlantic, Maritime Bus and Cassidy Farms.
Cassidy said he’ll employ a peak season staff of around 30 to 35 people and up to 50 on a seasonal basis.
Cassidy plans on introducing two products to the new business — haskap and golden berries — to see if they can become a commercial crop for VanKampen’s.
The business will continue to offer all the same products and produce it did before.
And, even though Charlie and Billy have sold the business, they’re not going very far for now. They’ve agreed to stay on through the 2019 season to help with the transition.
Cassidy also sat down with three main staff individuals and promoted them to senior management status.
“They know the business. I want them to learn more. I want them to take on more responsibility. I want them to be able to make decisions. I want them to feel as though this business is their own. We’re all going to learn from Charlie and Billy in 2019.’’