Jung Garden Centers and the J.W. Jung Seed Company
Choicest Fruit Makes Tastiest Seeds
On the rural family farm, each of the 10 boys and two girls had their job to keep the Jung's family farm running. J.W's job was to tend to the garden and keep it weeded. In those days, there were very few ways to buy seed, so seed had to be grown and harvested as a part of gardening. He learned from his mother that the choicest fruit made the best seed. Through peddling some of the extra seeds he had grown on the farm, he earned himself some extra money and an idea for something bigger.
Business School and Buckabee
After graduating from Oshkosh Business School, J.W. apprenticed at Buckabee Seed Company in Rockford, Illinois. He often talked of the long hours and low pay in those days, especially when the seed crops were coming in.
J.W. Jung Seed Company
When J.W. returned from his apprenticeship, with a humble hand press in his family's kitchen, the J.W. Jung Seed Company was born. A hole was cut in the side of the house for the belt that ran the press!
Building a Mailing List
J.W. built his mailing list by trading articles for advertisements. He would write gardening articles in exchange for advertisements in farm magazines. The exchange seemed to pay off, and soon the small hand press in his family's kitchen was not sufficient for the growing business.
Business Outgrows the Kitchen Printing Operation
J.W. purchased a Chandler and Price cylinder press in 1909, and could print 10,000 of his seed catalogs. In 1910, a new two-story building was erected on the Jung family farm to house the seed company which by now had about 500 customers.
Printing Outgrows the Family Farm
As the business grew, it became apparent that the rural location of the business made transportation challenges a problem, especially in winter and early spring. He decided to move the business to downtown Randolph in 1913 to be near the post office and railroad.
Growing Business and Nursery Stock
To accommodate the growing business, J.W. purchased the Alton Hall, an opera house in downtown Randolph, Wisconsin. Nursery stock was a new category added to the offerings in the catalog.
The Great Depression
Even though the U.S. was in a depression, the 1930s saw rapid growth for the seed company. By 1935, the catalog mailing was up to 280,000. In times of economic hardship, seeds and gardening provided a way for families to put food on the table.
The First Garden Center Opens
Local catalog customers wanted a way to shop the catalog and get everything they needed in one trip. To meet demand, the first garden center was set up in a room in the new company headquarters in 1955.
The Second Generation
After World War II, J.W.'s sons, Wilfred and John, and his son-in-law, Tuenis Zondag, joined the company. When Wil and J.W. retired in 1981, Teunis and John managed the business until 1992 when the next generation of leadership was ready take charge when they retired.
Growing Garden Center Demand
As local demands to shop the J.W. Jung Catalog product in-person grew, a new Randolph Garden Center was built at the headquarters in 1972. A second store was opened in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, in 1989.
New Leadership & More Garden Centers
After getting his Bachelor's degree in Horitculture at UW-Madison, Dick Zondag, Tuenis' son, worked with the nursery, greenhouses and propogation from 1972 until he eventually took over the business in 1992.
Dick was at the forefront of building successful Madison garden centers in the 1990s- Madison, Sun Prairie and Fitchburg.
Dick went on to get his Master's Degree in Horticulture from Cornell University. His business leadership and horticultural education expanded potted nursery production to meet growing customer demands for Jung's high quality product beyond what was offered in the catalog.
3rd Generation Innovation
Dick led the company as President for almost 30 years, navigating new technology and helping bring J.W.'s catalog titles onto the Internet and to millions the convenience of online ordering at www.jungseed.com.
In 2021, Dick retired as his son, Nathan, was ready to take lead. He maintains his radio segment 'The Garden Doctor' on Daily Dodge, started a Garden Doctor YouTube and is still sharing his family business and gardening knowledge at the company headquarters, where he can be seen almost daily.
The 4th Generation- Present
Nathan grew up watching his grandpa, Teunis, and father, Dick, run the company. In the 2000s, Nathan continued in their footsteps working at the seed company. At Wisconsin Lutheran College, Nathan earned his bachelor's degrees in both Business Adminstration and Biology Natural Resouces, and eventually worked his way up to vice president with his father as the president. In 2022, Nathan took over the company when Dick retired, and works closely with his family at the headquarters in Randolph.
Nathan oversees the catalog, websites, garden centers and growing operations while maintainting the quality that J.W. built and his family has maintained for generations.
Like his father, Nathan is expanding the company's garden center presence and distribution. In 2022, Nathan opened the first Jung Garden Center pop-up store in Appleton, Wisconsin. The store opened again in 2023. A seventh Jung Garden Center is also opening in Stoughton, Wisconsin, in 2023.
Jung's currently distributes eight catalog titles and eight million catalogs per year.