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Sheltered workshop purchases Dix’s retail store

When the Dix Greenhouse retail store opens next month it will have a slightly different name and a new owner.

On Jan. 19, MCII (Missouri Community Improvement Industries Inc.) in Farmington purchased the retail store in the wedge between Woodlawn and Main streets. The retail store will be called Dix Garden Center by MCII.

“I initially got the idea when CMSE, the sheltered workshop in Columbia, opened a greenhouse last year,” said Ginger Williams, general manager of MCII Inc.

Williams had heard Ben King was ready to retire. Ben, 73, has run the business, along with his wife, Claudia and his son, Jamie, who are all co-owners.

Williams knew the King family well. She worked at Dix in the office in 1984.

“Knowing Ben King as I do, I began thinking about his business and what a good fit it may be for MCII,” she said. MCII is a non-profit organization that provides dignified employment opportunities to disabled adults.

When the garden retail store opened last spring, she began talking to the Kings about the possibility of buying their business.

She learned Ben was, indeed, ready to get out of the business and retire. Their son, Jamie, wasn’t interested in continuing the family business by himself.

She took the idea to MCII’s Board of Directors.

“In May of last year, my board president, Joe Easter, and I made a trip to Columbia,” she said. “Our thoughts and impressions were immediate and exactly the same – this was definitely an avenue we wanted to explore.”

She said as time went on and everything fell into place so perfectly, it became clear to her and the board that this was meant to be.

“And the fact that the Kings have allowed us to keep the ‘Dix’ name pleased us very much,” Williams said. “They are so well known for selling quality product and we are honored to be able to share their name and be linked to such a reputable business.”

The plan is for the store to be open from March through December. Like with the Kings, what part of March depends on the weather.

Ben doesn’t believe customers will notice the transition. Claudia is happy Dix will go on after they retire.

Ben plans to stay on as mentor through spring. He has already begun introducing Williams to some of his suppliers. MCII will be ordering in product the same way Dix did the last few years.

“We plan to offer the same quality plants and baskets that the area has come to expect,” she said.

Products range from vegetables to flowers, baskets and plants.

“We plan to run the business as usual through the summer; then as we move into fall we want to sell seasonal items such as mums, pumpkins, and many of the things pertaining to that time of year,” Williams said. “We then plan to have a Christmas shop – which I am very excited about.”

She said Claudia had a Christmas shop in there a few years ago and they are counting on her for advice.

Williams would also like to have a farmer’s market during regular business hours.

MCII will make one change. Williams said most of the property inside the fence will be covered allowing people to shop even during rain.

She said the key to making the garden center a success is going to be hiring the right person to manage this new business. Resumes were accepted through Feb. 2 and they hope to get someone in place soon. The manager must be business savvy, creative and be able to work well with MCII’s employees, she said.

More employees, disabled and non-disabled, will need to be hired. Currently, they employ a total of 80 individuals. With the additional hires, the workforce will be back up to 90 to 95 individuals.

“I am very excited about the opportunity this is going to open up for some of our disabled employees,” Williams said. “They will assist in watering the flowers and plants, in keeping them clean and rid of dead debris, and in keeping everything neat and tidy, as well as assisting customers in getting their purchases to their cars.”

MCII may even grow some of their own mums.

About Dix

Claudia King’s grandfather, James Dix, started Dix Greenhouse in 1938 with one little greenhouse. His son, Claude James Dix, bought the business and then the Kings bought the business in the late 70s.

The business grew until there were about 23 acres under cover.

Until a few years ago when they got out of the growing business, Dix was one of the largest growing facilities in the country. They were also one of the largest employers in St. Francois County, employing more than 840 people in a typical growing season.

A fire in March of 2003 destroyed three of the greenhouses. While the fire was hard, it brought out the kindness of the community and the business kept operating, Claudia said.

A few years after the fire, they decided to get out of the growing business. They continued with a retail store that was open from mid-March to June.

Ben said the greenhouses are now gone. Most were sold to Mennonites in central Missouri. The Kings still own the property, which has been annexed into Park Hills and is zoned for industrial development.

The Kings want to express their gratitude to all of the people who have worked for and bought from them over the years, making the success of the business possible.

About MCII

MCII first opened its doors in an old St. Joe Lead Company building in Rivermines on Aug. 11, 1975, with 15 employees. They moved to the Burks Road location in Farmington in 1982. They built a 40,000-square-foot facility in 2004 on Westmount Drive. Currently, there are 80 employees.

MCII is an “outsource resource” for industry. MCII specializes in shrink wrapping, blister packaging, hand packaging, assembly, re-assembly, inspecting, sorting, collating, labeling, bulk mailing and furniture refinishing.

MCII is certified to operate as a Sheltered Workshop by the Missouri Department of Education. Each of the employees are certified as eligible by the Missouri Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Local businesses who use MCII include Siegel Robert Automotive, Monterey Mushroom and MOCAP.

Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at

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