NEW VIENNA, Iowa — They have a favorite saying at Willenborg Lawn Ornaments.
“We do everything,” said longtime owner Carol Willenborg. “Anything from a mouse to a moose.”
Though, she noted, the moose now have to be ordered special.
The Telegraph Herald (http://bit.ly/2bDnnwy ) reports that for 29 years, Willenborg and husband, Dennis, have operated the quirky business on Iowa 136. From April to December, the self-proclaimed largest such outlet in northeast Iowa connects homeowners with just about any lawn decoration imaginable.
There’s something for everyone, according to Willenborg. Whether you’re looking for a concrete giraffe, lion, zebra or even a mythical sasquatch, they’ve got it or they can make it.
“We’ve got elephants,” she said. “We’ve got Bigfoot. I think he’s a little weird.”
The business started as a way for Willenborg, the mother of a then 6-year-old daughter, to earn money while preventing her child from becoming a “latchkey kid.”
“I bought seven little gnomes,” Willenborg recalled. “I started painting from there and now I’ve created a monster, it seems like it.”
In the ensuing three decades, Willenborg creations have gone global, she said.
“We’re in all but Hawaii (and) I think we’re still not in New Hampshire yet,” said Willenborg, whose husband began charting the destinations of lawn ornaments years ago. “But we’re in England, Spain, France … Iceland and Germany. And we’re in Mexico and Canada.”
Willenborg and her family have accumulated hundreds of concrete molds through the years, and always are willing to work on a custom order. The business prepares many personalized memorial pieces, such as benches or steppingstones.
The big sellers tend to vary from year to year, though the months around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day tend to be the busiest.
This year, eagles were in high demand, Willenborg said.
“Last year, it was a run on skunks,” she said. “We couldn’t keep skunks in stock.”
Whatever shape customers choose, they can take pride in knowing their lawn ornaments have a personal touch.
“That is our specialty. We hand-paint,” said Willenborg. “We only use an air gun for trim on animals. All of our other pieces are hand-painted.”
Two of Willenborg’s eagles welcome visitors to New Vienna. They were acquired and installed by the New Vienna Garden Club this spring to spruce up the city’s welcome sign.
Kathy Boeckenstedt, one of the club’s co-leaders, said the eagles replaced a pair of aging angels.
“They had been there for 20 years,” Boeckenstedt said. “They had taken a little wear and tear on them.”
With the Willenborgs being a New Vienna institution, they were a natural choice to help update the city’s lawn decor, Boeckenstedt said. And the eagles, which stand guard in club-maintained flower beds, have been well-received.
“We’re real pleased with them,” Boeckenstedt said. “They look real nice. … We’ve had a lot of comments on them.”
Business is booming, Willenborg said, noting that she takes online orders and even sets up appointments with customers during the offseason. But she and Dennis might be about ready to hang up their paintbrushes.
“We want to celebrate our 30th year, but after that, I think we will be phasing out of it,” she said.
Not that northeast Iowa’s largest selection of lawn decorations will be going anywhere anytime soon. Willenborg is preparing her granddaughter to take over the business.
In the meantime, Willenborg will keep working to keep up with whatever customers are clamoring for.
“Dogs, this year, are driving us nuts almost,” she said.
Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com
An AP Member Exchange shared by the Telegraph Herald