A fond mother/daughter Christmas memory: Bernacchi Greenhouses

 

Story and (old!) photos by WNLP’s Beth Boardman

My mother, Jean Boardman, was a holiday tradition kind of lady, and many of her events are still celebrated today by my extended family.

One of the merry rituals my mom and I especially enjoyed together was going each year to the Christmas open houses at local florists. The La Porte florists would coordinate to hold these events on the same Sunday in early December. At each, Mom (who passed away in 2014) and I would go from florist to florist, often buying yet another new ornament to add to the vast family collection, and enjoying a few cookies and some punch along the way.

But Bernacchi Greenhouses was by far our favorite stop. Particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, Bernacchi’s grew and sold hundreds of thousands of poinsettias in the Midwest and well beyond from its Fox Street location. One Bernacchi patriarch said several years ago that at its peak, the family business cranked out and distributed 1 million per holiday season.

After strolling through the store, my mother and I always headed with anticipation to the vast greenhouses, tropically warm on a cold December day and filled with that delicious, earthy aroma of live plants. We’d cast our eyes on the seas of poinsettias that seemed to stretch into oblivion. Lined in neat rows, they looked like a lush, red, wall-to-wall carpet. This beautiful sight went on from one bright greenhouse to the next, all so welcome and amazing on dull winter days.

After more than a century in business, Bernacchi’s closed in November 2013. The long, glass greenhouses now deteriorating, there is little there to indicate it was once a thriving Midwestern business. There’s some sadness in my soul every time I pass by.

But the melancholy doesn’t match the warm memories I have of that ocean of poinsettias, and these photos I took with my beloved Minolta SRT-201 in 1980 and 1982, just two of Mom’s and my many fun Christmastime visits there. Merry Christmas

 

9 Responses to “A fond mother/daughter Christmas memory: Bernacchi Greenhouses”

  1. Lynn Lisarelli

    Dec 25. 2020

    What a delightful memory! Thank you for sharing.

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  2. May

    Dec 25. 2020

    Those were the days! Will never find them as beautiful as there! What great memories Beth!

    Reply to this comment
    • Cory Bernacchi

      Dec 25. 2020

      I remember those day’s. I remember Jean as well. When I was a boy . I’m sorry for your loss. The greenhouses was a beautiful spot to visit. All because of good hard working family and friends.
      Peace to you and your family soon I pray 🙏
      Cory Corato Bernacchi

      Reply to this comment
  3. Chuka

    Dec 25. 2020

    Beth, this is a delightful story! I can picture you and your Mom walking down Bernacchi’s poinsettia aisles, enjoying their beauty and each other! Thank you for sharing your memory.

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  4. Bob Wellinski

    Dec 26. 2020

    Thanks for sharing these memories (and photos) Beth. I have fond memories of my annual trek out to Bernacchi’s to photograph all those poinsettias for the Herald Argus (in the good old days). They would run a large colorful photo on page 1 of the vast beauty. And that greenhouse smell that continues to resonate several years later. I’m also reminded of my memorable childhood– growing up next to Thode’s greenhouses and becoming an adopted kid of that wonderful Thode family. Well Beth, we know what our next floral memory will be to SPRING up… WNLP readers, stay tuned..

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  5. Jane Hahn

    Dec 26. 2020

    You don ‘t know me but I am your second cousin. My grandmother was Josie Borg, sister of Frank. My mom and I also loved walking thru the beautiful poinsettias. I’m sorry to hear that the greenhouses and are closed, they were such a part of LaPorte.

    Reply to this comment
    • Beth Boardman

      Dec 26. 2020

      Thanks for responding, Jane! The family ties continue through generations, and that’s a lovely thing.

      Reply to this comment
  6. Mary

    Dec 26. 2020

    Thanks for this lovely memory! I still miss this place! There are no equals out there anywhere close by! Going in the spring when it was in full bloom, well, there’s no more beautiful sight then that! And yes, the poinsettias were magnificent! Wish we could step back in time!❤️

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  7. Marie Vallentyne

    Jan 12. 2021

    I enjoyed your story – it brought back many great memories. I didn’t realize that they closed in 2013. Very sad to see such a good business close.

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