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Imel's Greenhouse also a playhouse for kids in the fall

Oct. 08, 2008 @ 12:00 AM

GREENUP, Ky. -- Imel's Greenhouse isn't the average nursery, especially this time of year.

Sure, you'll find pumpkins and gourds and corn stalks and mums. But don't be surprised if there are school buses, teachers and young students by the dozens. Because this time of year is definitely different.

In the fall, Imel's Greenhouse also is home to a pretty big playground, a barnyard zoo with goats, chickens and rabbits, a hay bale maze and a toddler-sized wagon ride.

For the past two decades, it's grown to become a pretty popular fall spot, said owner and founder Kenny Imel. Hundreds of schools from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, travel, some as many as 40 miles, for a couple of hours of fun and agricultural education.

"What we started here was to stretch the season, increase the income," Imel admits. "But we don't make any money off the school trips. We make the money when parents come and shop while their kids play."

And at any time during October, there's evidence to his theory. Earlier this week, a mom brought her kids for the third straight day.

It does cost $5 per child for the school trips, but that includes a gourd, a pumpkin, playtime, the education aspect and a wagon ride. When kids come with their parents from 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and all day on the weekends, it's a chance to have fun, get some fall decor or grab a pumpkin for the family to decorate for Halloween. And the playground is free.

Imel's Greenhouse is kind of out in the country. But with its spot on Ky. 1, between U.S. 23 and Industrial Parkway in Greenup County, it's really not that hard to find. Thus, not hard to believe why people make it a priority to visit.

"We're a destination location," Imel said. "We have people who come every year as their annual outing."

The playground includes a plane, a monster truck, boat and a tractor, all handmade from wood by the Amish, Imel said. There also are a few slides and two child-sized houses. This year, he also has an area where kids can ride tricycles.

Imel said there is about $21,000 worth of equipment, but he never wanted it to be about dollars and cents.

"It's fun, and it's not just about the money," Imel said. "It's a break-even proposition, and I know some people might say I'm crazy, but we love it."

And so do the schools. He estimates that more than 100 groups and upward of 2,000 kids will visit this month, though he said there are still some days open.

"You see kids who may never be on a farm, and you try to give them an idea of where products come from," he said of the education piece he delivers.

Imel talks of expanding and making it bigger. He owns land across the road, and his mind is already churning on what to do next.

"We always try to keep it fresh and new," he said. "Maybe someday we'll run out of ideas."

Even if Imel's Greenhouse stays just the way it is, it can still be called one of a kind.

"It's a lot of variety," Imel said. "You can drive around and not find that anywhere else."

And that's what brings people back year after year to the destination out on Ky. 1.

WHAT: Greenhouse and nursery that's open from April 1 to Oct. 31 that has a big kid's play area, a barnyard zoo and a hay bale maze, in addition to pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn and mums.

WHERE: 2836 Ky. 1, Greenup, Ky.

PHONE: 606-473-1708

DIRECTIONS: Imel's is located on Ky. 1, about three miles south of U.S. 23 in Greenup. It's also accessible by taking the Industrial Parkway exit off Interstate 64, then exiting onto Ky. 207 West for a few miles before turning right onto Ky. 1.