America’s Best Flowers, which traces its roots to founder Ed Knapton’s 1977 summer internship helping to grow strawberries and vegetables in Sauk City, will close its doors at Christmas.
The Cottage Grove operation, 4311 Vilas Hope Road, and the Edgerton store will officially close Dec. 24, said Michele Westphall, marketing manager.
Ed Knapton died Nov. 6, after a two-year battle with prostate cancer. His wife, Carol, was left to run the business.
“Unfortunately, even with a good fiscal year to date, the hurdles that Carol would face since Ed’s passing were just too great to carry the business on herself,” Westphall said.
For months, there were plans to sell the business and property and transition it to a hemp-growing operation. Those plans have since fallen apart.
America’s Best Flowers was a supporter of the Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce and many other area organizations.
“We are deeply saddened by the news that America’s Best Flowers is closing their doors,” said Paula Severson, executive director of the chamber. “It’s always heartbreaking when a longstanding business makes the difficult decision to close.”
According to the company’s website, Ed and Carol Knapton started a pick-your-own vegetable business near Marshall in 1978. The operation in Marshall expanded in size, and in 1981, they also rented 80 acres on the east side of Madison.
At the business’ peak in 1983, the Knaptons had 35 acres of pick-your-own vegetables, five acres of raspberries and two acres of asparagus, along with 23 acres of strawberries.
A major fire in 1983 forced Ed Knapton back to working for others, this time at The Wisconsin Cheeseman in Sun Prairie. The fire destroyed much of the company equipment, and the Knaptons were underinsured.
Over the next six years, while working in Sun Prairie, Ed Knapton shut down the fruit and vegetable operations but opened a greenhouse for flowers in 1987.
The Vilas Hope property was purchased in 1990, and it came with an existing landscape company that Ed Knapton kept going for another five years. The last greenhouse was moved from Marshall to Cottage Grove in 1992, and the Kanptons moved into a new home on the property as well.
By 1998, it grew to 83,000 square feet of greenhouses on the Vilas Hope Road property, and retail sales took off in 1999.
In 2012, operations began at the Edgerton garden center and floral shop.