BOWLING GREEN—Some may say that the Christmas season starts too early, and it seems like it gets earlier every year. But for the Teasley family, it’s a necessity.
“So many people start asking about Christmas decorations and dècor in October, that we have to get it out as soon as we’re done with the corn maze and pumpkin patch,” said Tonya Teasley.
Right after they close the maze at the end of October, Tonya and her staff at the Prairie’s Edge Garden Center close for a week to switch out the merchandise and prep for the Christmas season. And once they’re done, being in the store is like being transported to a Christmas wonderland.
“It’s a short turnaround time,” she said. But they do it as quickly as possible, so that they are ready for the customers who plan and decorate their homes early for the season.
Tonya and her husband, Bennie, started the business in the winter of 2007. Bennie farms full time, leaving the store and garden center’s operations in Tonya’s capable hands. She had clerked at the local Sale Barn and was a full-time mom to their two children, Teagan and Payton before starting the business. Both children are grown now and out of the house. Originally, Tonya just wanted to do the corn maze and pumpkin patch. On average, they have about 1,500 to 2,000 people come through the maze. The outline is always in the shape of Pike County. But the maze itself changes every year. Tonya designs the maze and has help with laying out the GPS coordinates so they know where to cut it. The cutting takes about a day.
“The maze theme this year was ‘Our farmers feed America.’”
Even with the popularity of the maze, Bennie told her if they were going to have a building for sales, she would have to come up with a business model that would have a year-round revenue source instead of just one month in the fall. The maze usually opens at the start of October and ends on the 31st. It was nearing Thanksgiving and the dried corn stalks were still standing.
“Normally, Bennie has the combine sitting at the edge of the maze on Nov. 1,” Tonya said. But weather and other farming concerns prevented him from harvesting the corn when the maze season was done.
When they first started, they had one greenhouse, she said, and they served lunch. The gift area was much smaller, as were the gift and dècor offerings. Now the lunch part is gone and there is a second greenhouse.
“We hope to have a third one up by spring,” she said.
They stopped serving lunch around 2010-11, she added. Once that element of the operation was gone, they could focus and grow the other parts of the business. And expand they did. The shop is filled with a wide variety of items to suit just about everyone’s decorating tastes.
“We even have the largest supply of garden flags in the state,” Tonya added—more than 4,000 of them.
“The greenhouse and garden center part has grown a lot in the last few years,” she said. “We grow all our own annuals and vegetables. And then we bring in perennials and shrubs.”
They also do a lot of custom plantings. Tonya said people would bring in their potted plants and ask her and her staff if they can fix it. Customers also buy the pots at the shop, and Tonya and her staff plant them so they can be taken home later. They also do bulk garden seed and bulk mulch.
She also has a large selection of mailbox covers.
Even though the store has several artificial trees to display an enormous number of tree ornaments, Tonya said they also do fresh greenery for the Christmas season.
“The daughter of one of the women that works for me will be selling live Christmas trees here as part of her FAA project,” Tonya said.
In the fall, they added a houseplant area and started delivering live plants for birthdays or to funeral home or whenever someone wants to have one delivered.
Store hours change seasonally, she noted, so she suggests looking up Prairie’s Edge’s Facebook page where they post the hours. During the fall, hours are usually 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Sundays, they open at noon. But she is also flexible for her customers.
“In the spring when we’re planting and stuff, if it’s pretty, and there are still people coming,” we’ll stay open, she said.
Tonya grew up in the area. Originally, she is from Frankford. Most of her customers know how to reach her, so if they have a gardening emergency, they can call and she will meet them at the store.
There are times, when customers will show up when the shop is closed, take a photo of what they’re picking up and text Tonya to let her know what they have and let her know when they’ll be in to pay for it.
When her children were still living at home, Tonya said, they helped out with the store and the corn maze. Her son, Payton, would drive the hayride wagon and her daughter, Teagan, would help out in the store. They still help out when they’re home to visit.
Payton’s plan, she said, is to come back to the farm after graduating from college. Teagan has already graduated and found a job down around the Lake of the Ozarks.
Tonya and Bennie have been married for 25 years. He’s originally from Silex, but moved to the Bowling Green area to farm.
She smiles thinking about their marriage and time together.
“He always tells me he’s not going to shut down the farm operation for my hobby.”
She started with just part-time employees, but now has two full-time people to help out in the store and greenhouses.
Prairie’s Edge has participated in Christmas in the Green since opening in 2007, Tonya said.
“We usually do refreshments” for the customers who come in during those days—Nov. 21-23, she added. “We also have a gift with purchase incentive, and some special sales for those three days.” The gifts and special sales are kept confidential until the night before Christmas in the Green starts.
“We pride ourselves on our customer service, and helping people customize their decorations and home dècor to them,” she said, “no matter what the season.”
Prairie’s Edge is located at 18011 Bus. Hwy 161. It can be seen from Hwy 61 just south of the Bowling Green exit.