One million rose bushes. 100 years. Three generations.
Since 1919, Belton’s Klaus family has grown a business that spreads a love of flowers like a vine out to customers across the metro area.
“Roses have been our passion for 100 years,” said Patte Klaus Schreihofer, a third-generation family member who now operates Klaus Rose Farm Flower shop with her brothers, Barney and Joe. “We were born into the business. We literally grew up in the greenhouses and worked as a family.”
In 1919, Klaus Schreihofer’s grandfather, John Klaus, left a position at Premiere Rose Gardens in Chicago to follow his own dream of starting a rose farm. He and his wife moved to Greenwood, Missouri, where they purchased land to start their growing operations.
Within a year, they had built their first 7,500 square feet of greenhouses. By the mid-1940s, the family had purchased additional land in Belton and expanded their greenhouses to more than 100,000 square feet under glass. In 1947, they also opened their first full-service flower shop.
“Our roses were so fragrant and lasted three to four weeks,” Klaus Schreihofer said. “We developed one variety that was dusty pink and yellow. It was named Barbara, after my mom, and had the most wonderful scent, like French perfume. The blooms opened up to the size of a 9-inch plate.”
In the early 1940s, Klaus Schreihofer’s father, Barney, left the farm to attend Ohio State University, where he studied engineering. When he returned after school and service in World War II, he applied his engineering knowledge to the family’s growing operations. Before then, greenhouse production had been primarily a manual-labor enterprise.
Schreihofer’s father designed and developed innovative automation processes and integrated them into existing manual operations. Automatic irrigation and energy-efficient lighting were just a few of his contributions to modernizing the industry.
By 1969, Klaus’ Ross Farm had received regional and national recognition as one of the most automated agribusinesses in the country. Representatives from greenhouses around the country visited to learn more about technological advancements the Klaus’ had implemented on their farm.
Klaus Schreihofer recalls one of those visits by a large group of California flower growers.
“My dad said we would need to feed the growers lunch while they were here. He said, ‘We have six kids and we can do it ourselves.’ He also said we not only needed to feed them, but we had to make enough sandwiches to pack them a lunch when they left.
“He engineered an assembly line, and we each did our job and got 350 Reuben sandwiches made.”
In 2010, Klaus’ Rose Farm closed. The greenhouses were sold, dismantled and moved to another state. Today, the Klaus siblings still manage the flower shop in Belton, located on the original rose farm site.
Though Klaus’ Rose Farm Flower Shop has thrived through the years and built a loyal customer base, the business has also endured a seismic shift — one that has occurred across the floral industry during the last decade.
The advancement of technology, which allowed the Klaus’ to flourish and reimagine their industry decades ago, has redefined that business in the 21st century. Online flower sites have been a significant source of the change and have particularly impacted small, independent floral businesses.
“These sites have taken the heart and feeling out of serving people, and that personal touch is what our industry does best,” Klaus Schreihofer said. “Here, we’re still in the business of listening and serving our customers.
“Flowers are sent for epic occasions, weddings, baptisms, deaths. Sending flowers is a way for people to communicate with their friends and loved ones. Online sites are not listening to these deeply personal stories. We can offer that when we talk to customers.”
Donna and Jim Stanfield, of Lee’s Summit, have experienced that personal touch since their wedding day in 1992.
“Patte did our wedding flowers and she did a beautiful job. We’ve had a one-on-one relationship with her since,” Donna Stanfield said. “We value the longevity of her business. Businesses don’t last this long if they don’t treat their customers right. We trust her for her quality and artistry.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago. My husband had Patte send arrangements every week for months. She did such a special job with those.”
Entrepreneurs themselves, the Stanfields own Freedom Cycles in Grandview.
“Relationships with local businesses are important, and we try to do business locally whenever we can,” Jim Stanfield said. “When you purchase locally, you support your hometown and build relationships. When you buy on the internet, you don’t build those same personal relationships.”
Foremost in her business philosophy, Klaus Schreihofer values those customers.
“There are moments when you know what you’ve done has made an impact on someone’s life,” she said. “That’s what brings me joy every day and I can’t imagine doing any other job.
“When I retire, I’m going to miss helping people go through life’s passages.”