It’s springtime in Kankakee, which means that many will be flocking to Benoit Greenhouses upon its April 12 opening. While the greenhouse is closed during the winter months, the Benoits are always working hard on this longtime family business.
Their dedication has earned them the title of Entrepreneur Couple of the Year as part of The Daily Journal’s 2021 Progress Awards.
Benoit Greenhouses has been serving the horticultural industry since 1975 when Vince and Christine Benoit went into partnership with Mark and Brenda Benoit. In 1989, Vince and Christine became sole owners and, last year, it was passed down and purchased by Luke and Mandy Benoit.
“It’s everyone working for the same team,” Luke said about working in a family-run business. “It’s rewarding to have nieces and nephews work together and [to be] teaching them to work. It’s having our kids be with us all of the time. It’s great.”
Upon purchasing the business in 2020, Luke’s role changed from head grower to running the entire operation: maintenance, sales, invoicing, construction, expansion, billing, production schedule, day-to-day operations and more.
Mandy, a well-known artist in the community, has her work on display for sale at the greenhouse — a seasonal store that she designs and curates in the black shed on the property. When the greenhouse opens for the season, she will be showcasing a spring collection.
She creates hand-made jewelry through her company, Pommier-Benoit Handcrafted. Additionally, she is a professional photographer and handles the photography and marketing for the greenhouse.
“It’s exactly what Luke said,” Mandy said on the subject of a family-run business. “Everyone pulling on the same rope. Everyone working together for a common goal. It’s equal parts exhausting and invigorating. It’s definitely rewarding.”
The couple attended high school together — with Luke being one year ahead in school. They didn’t officially meet until a night out with friends in 2002. Four years later, they were married.
They have four children — Lucy, Anthony, Kate and Leo — who spend a lot of time with their parents at the greenhouse.
While there was no way of knowing at the time, purchasing a business in the year 2020 would prove to be a challenge unlike any other. However, the entrepreneur couple persevered and were able to make it work.
“It was challenging and stressful, but in the end, very successful,” Luke said.
Mandy said the pandemic led Benoit Greenhouses to create a curbside pick-up catalog, an email list and a user interface — all done “at the drop of a hat to accommodate customers.”
The Benoits look forward to welcoming the community back for the spring season next month.
The greenhouse is located at 568 N. 2750 E. Road, Kankakee.
Visit benoitgreenhouses.com for more information.