Family reflects on 47 years in the greenhouse business

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) -- After nearly 50 years, an iconic family greenhouse business is still thriving.

Just off Highway 44 on a street named Jolly Lane in Rapid City, there's a classic sign, representing not only a greenhouse, but a family and the fulfillment of the American Dream.

Inside, there's a literal flowering feast for the eyes of gardeners. There are rows and rows of plants, in a place that has been decades in the making.

Dean and Norma Sime, both now 81 years old, and their five kids have run this place for nearly half a century.

But Dean actually started in the auto body business.

"And I went home one day and told Norma, I said, 'I'm not gonna be doing this when I'm 60 years old. I don't care if I gotta sell pencils on the street corner, but I don't want to be breathing paint and dust and this kinda stuff and laying under cars," said Dean.

It was 1969, when the unplanned seed was planted. Dean's boss at the car shop bought some land in Rapid City that included a greenhouse. The couple decided to rent the place and grow tomatoes.

"And I'm allergic to tomato vines," said Norma.

Since Dean was still at the auto shop, Norma was tasked with pollinating those plants.

"And the tomatoes got fungus on 'em and they'd be a beautiful group of tomatoes and they'd be all moldy on the bottom," Norma said.

Dean said financially it was a disaster. Undeterred, Dean came across another little old greenhouse business, and the owner wanted out. The Simes rented it, ultimately bought it, and planted their roots there.

They kept the original name of Jolly Lane Greenhouse. It was 1971 and it looked nothing like it does now, but pictures in a scrapbook preserve memories.

"So we spent the first two years of Jolly Lane trying to pay off the loss of the tomato business," Norma said.

"We started from scratch. It was learning by mistakes. Some were not big. Some were extremely costly," Dean explained.

"Actually in the early days of the business, my dad was still doing the auto body work on a daily basis because he needed an income, and with five kids and everything. So Mom worked at the business, actually, my grandmother, my dad's mother helped out back in the early days," said Tim Sime, co-owner of the business.

"I've always told everybody it's like milking cows: these plants don't know whether it's Christmas, or Thanksgiving or Sunday. If they need water or they need care, you've got to be here. Otherwise it's not gonna work," Dean said.

This time, things took off and their business went into full bloom.

"And for years, every year was better, and better, and better and better and we upgraded the greenhouse, upgraded the equipment," Dean remembered.

"It wouldn't be this large if the kids hadn't stayed in the business because Dean and I could never have done all this," Norma said.

Dean and Norma stepped aside. Jolly Lane is now owned by their five adult children. Nearly 50 years after the tomato disaster, this place is more than a greenhouse; it's a family business and the fulfillment of the American Dream.

Just as the greenhouse has grown, so has their family tree. Dean and Norma are now the proud grandparents of six kids, and great grandparents of four.