It was a surprising scene at the Shady Lane Greenhouse on Monday.
The sun shone brightly and the green “Open” sign was on full display. Customers perused rows upon rows of poinsettias. Employees went about their tasks, and a group of customers purchased some colorful mums at the checkout counter.
It’s not an atypical scene at one of Menomonee Falls’ more popular nurseries. However, just three days prior, a gigantic black plume of thick smoke rose menacingly from the greenhouse and more than a dozen emergency vehicles lined Shady Lane to extinguish a large fire that erupted in the pole barn at the business.
Loyal customers of the greenhouse couldn’t help but think the worse when they saw the ominous cloud.
“I was so worried,” said Kimberly Scott, who is a running partner and close friend of Shady Lane retail manager Heidi Hornung. “It was obviously something I was worried about for my friend, and this is a great family business. You know they put their heart and soul into this business, and to see how large that dark plume of smoke was — it was concerning.”
Despite the dramatic fire, most of the business was not damaged, and the greenhouse was open the following day.
And before delving any deeper in this article, rest assured: The greenhouse's popular holiday train will continue to run this year.
The train is the Midwest's largest G-scale model railroad display, and is a popular attraction for young and old. For many people, the first question after hearing about the fire was, "Will the train still be running?"
“We’re going on with all our scheduled events and we are getting ready for Christmas,” Hornung said. “The cleanup will begin shortly. As long as we can get rid of the mess, we can evaluate what we need to do next. We’ll be ready.”
A wall of plastic sheeting now separates the greenhouses from the pole barn, which was destroyed by the fire. Behind those plastic curtains, however, is a charred war zone of creaking, twisted metal and ash. The pole barn contained items that had been stored over 40 years of doing business and Christmas supplies, and was used as a work area.
The fire began during a welding accident in the pole barn, which quickly spiraled out of control. The fire ignited at roughly 11:45 a.m. Friday, and mutual aid was called from around the Milwaukee area. Firefighters extinguished the blaze at roughly 2:19 p.m.
Other than supplies, the pole barn, and some Christmas plants, nothing else was destroyed. Most importantly, no one was injured Friday.
“Nobody died. That’s most important. This cannot be compared with the loss of life, and we can move forward from this,” Hornung said. “Customers have come in and have been very supportive. They wish us well and want to be so helpful.”
Shady Lane Greenhouse will host its holiday celebration from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17. Here’s a look at some of featured events that day:
- Midwest’s largest G-scale model railroad display
- Poinsettias, Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands and planters of every size and color
- Children’s activities by Friends of Boerner Botanical Gardens
- Visit and meet Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus
- Photos with an antique holiday sleigh
- Treats from Nino’s Italian Bakery
- Special class offerings
To register for classes or to learn more about the holiday celebration, call the greenhouse at (262) 251-1660, or check out the website.