RANDOM ACRES ENDS ITS LONG RUN IN SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP

 

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Random Acres was a mainstay of our local plant and garden business for 35 years.  They were a bright, colorful spot on East Schaumburg Road with their flowers, vegetables, gardening equipment and, most of all, their gorgeous baskets that were ready for your front porch, patio, or deck.   Unfortunately, those colors will be available no more.

With the close of this growing season (2013) the business came to an end.  Len Johnson, the owner, has closed both the Garden Center at 621 E. Schaumburg Road and the Farm & Flower Market at the corner of Roselle and Central Roads in Schaumburg.

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The beginning of this long time, local business started before Schaumburg even became a village.  It was around 1955 that Len’s parents, Len and Ann Johnson, purchased five acres of land from Paul and Sara Meginnis who were early forerunners in the development of the village of Schaumburg.  The Johnsons built the house that was on the property and raised their family in the split level home.  A large vegetable garden was added and from that simple plot, Random Acres got its start.

As a way to earn money and move some of the produce, Wayne, Dave and Len Johnson, Jr. and Mark Maine, a high school friend, set up a roadside stand at the Johnson home in 1978 while students at  Conant High School.  By September 9, 1980 when an article on their business ran in the Daily Herald, the young men were farming “on 40 acres of rented farm land in four different areas near Schaumburg and Plum Grove roads.”  They called their enterprise “Random Acres because their corn, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash and medley of other vegetables [were] grown on various parcels wedged between new subdivisions and businesses.”

The four of them had purchased a tractor, flatbed hay wagon and other farming equipment and were working hard.  They did their farming at night and on the weekends around school and other jobs.  Eventually, however, all of them left the business except for Len Jr. who continued to farm.  He added some greenhouses so he could get an early jump on the vegetable growing season and soon began planting flowers too.  This was a fortuitous move and resulted in a profitable business.100_0300

Len incorporated his parents and sister into the operation of the market as well as various high school students.  In an article in the Chicago Tribune from February 18, 1987, his acreage in that year included, “5 [acres] belonging to his parents, 5 of neighbor Melvin Helsper’s around the corner at 28 S. Plum Grove Rd. and 30 near the Centex industrial complex across Irving Park Road, north of Verna Anderson’s property.”  In another change around that time, the Random Acres website states that “in 1988, Len hired his first full-time employee and in 1989, his second full-time employee was added.”

A few years later, the property was sold to Commonwealth Edison so that a substation could be built.  ComEd allowed the Johnsons to lease the front part of the property that bordered Schaumburg Road and they continued to make use of the house and business structures.  This evolved into the Random Acres many of us enjoyed.

In 1999 Len branched out and took over the lease of a farm market that was in operation at the corner of Roselle Road and Central Road, just north of the I-90 tollway.  He sold produce and flowers at this stand and established a fair number of greenhouses there too.  Before long this location was producing most of the flowers as well as selling the gorgeous hanging baskets that became a business specialty.

Unfortunately, the beautiful flowers and robust produce will no longer be a staple of Schaumburg Township.  Len decided not to renew his leases and closed both locations at the end of 2013.  In his words, “they enjoyed a nice run and will miss the wonderful customers.”  We will miss Random Acres, a wonderful, vivid, blooming gem along Schaumburg Road.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

An interview with Len Johnson, an article from the Daily Herald and the Random Acres website were all used to create this blog posting.

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4 Responses to “RANDOM ACRES ENDS ITS LONG RUN IN SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP”

  1. kat Says:

    That’s such a shame to see this business go away. I went to school with the Johnson kids, and they were very nice people. Wish Len good luck in his future endeavors.

  2. Lori Thelen Says:

    You are missed! What a shame that great places like this just disappear! Our grandchildren will never know the fun of going to a great down to earth place to pick-out wonderful fresh grown Illinois produce. The Thelen Family

  3. Jean Says:

    We will greatly miss this family and their years of serving the Schaumburg community of great produce and seasonal items. This is a great shame that Schaumburg no longer has a local family owned fresh market in town. I was shocked to see them closed and very sadden by this news. I wish they did not have to close their doors. I am sure it is hard to run a seasonal business like this in the State of IL to remain profitable. Miss your great sweet corn this summer. Best of luck to the Johnson family.

  4. Peter Johnson Says:

    Very well written article, sad but brings back some good memories. Occasionally I still help my father (Wayne) and we sold produce at farmer markets this past summer.

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