by Dennis Dalman
A 30-year-old family business, Hinkemeyer’s Tree Farm near Rice, has been sold, but it will remain part of the family tradition because its new owner is Cheryl Thiele, one of the Hinkemeyers’ two daughters.
Cheryl and her husband, Randy Thiele, recently purchased the tree farm from Cheryl’s parents. During an interview with the Newsleader, Cheryl and her father talked about the many years of the business and some of the changes the Thieles intend to make.
Many residents throughout central Minnesota have long been familiar with Hinkemeyer’s Tree Farm, a place where customers can saw down their choice of trees. Visiting Hinkemeyer’s has become a virtual holiday tradition not just for getting a tree but for the ambience of the business – families with children pulled on sleds, the cozy toasty shop filled with colorful Christmas gifts, wreathes, mistletoe, scented candles and the nostalgic aroma of spicy punch.
The business was started three decades ago by Floyd and Janice Hinkemeyer, who recently built a house across the township road from the property. Floyd was a school counselor for many years at Pierz (Minn.) High School.
The tree farm is located on CR 2 about five miles east of Rice.
“It’s a big change,” Floyd said. “But we’re so glad it’s still going to be in the family. Cheryl bought our old house and the 40 acres with the trees.”
Even though Floyd and Janice are now retired, they will still enjoy occasional visits to the tree-farm business so they can chat with their long-time customers or lend a hand now and then to their daughter and son-in-law.
The Thieles live in Chanhassen, Minn. Cheryl is a stay-at-home mom with three young children: London, Jaden and Olivia. Randy works for a computer service that sets up computer tests for companies that allow companies to determine the strengths of applicants for jobs.
Both of the Thieles will be at their tree farm during the busy pre-Christmas selling season.
One change the Thieles made was to rename the business by taking the “s” from the Hinkemeyer name. They did so, Cheryl said, just so there would be no bookkeeping confusion from the previous ownership and the new ownership. The official name is now “Hinkemeyer Tree Farm.”
Another change is the new large glass window on the gift shop from which customers can view the vast fields of trees: balsam, Frasier and Canaan firs; Scotch and Norway pines; white and blue spruce. There are about 25,000 trees planted on the 40-acre farm, but only about 3,000 are ready for cutting down every Christmas season.
Other changes the Thieles will introduce are a lunch-vending wagon and horse-drawn rides beginning Nov. 29, the day after Thanksgiving. Early birds will have a chance to get their trees early during a special pre-sale opening from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24.
“It’s an honor to carry on this family tradition,” Cheryl said. “Keeping it in the family – that’s the most important thing. I grew up with it. I don’t know what Christmas would be like if I wasn’t selling trees.”
Cheryl and her older siblings, Chad and Camie, helped with tree sales ever since they were young children.
“Most people have no idea how much work and details go into this business,” Cheryl said, noting it requires year-round work, including such tasks as weeding and insect control. “There’s a lot to it and so many background details my parents are still teaching us.”
The tree-farm business can also bring surprises, like a gopher that kept “excavating” recently by the tree shed.
The Hinkemeyer Tree Farm will be open from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; and from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. It will be closed Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The tree farm employs 15 employees at peak times.
Its number is 320-393-2854. The address is 12675 22nd Ave. NE, Rice.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.