It was a delightful, sunny Tuesday at Aptakisic Road and Leider Lane in northern Buffalo Grove, where the temperature was a balmy 75 degrees.
At least that was the case in part of the mammoth indoor flower-growing operation at Leider Greenhouses and Garden Center. There, the sweet aromas made a frigid winter's day seem more like the Deep South when the azaleas bloom in the spring.
In one of Leider's warmest greenhouses, the temperature ranged from 75 to 80 degrees as natural sunlight pierced a thin, plastic roof. Small plants start taking root in the propagation greenhouse that also has 60 percent to 80 percent humidity.
Given the conditions outside, operations manager Jim Jaeger and Kitty Leider didn't complain about being inside with the plants. They chuckled at the idea of a creating a side business by letting visitors in to enjoy the warmth.
"Put in a little pool or something, right?" Jaeger said.
Although the greenhouse climate is enjoyable now, Leider said it's a different matter on a steamy summer day.
"It's brutal," she said.
To mimic reasonable outdoor conditions so the flowers may grow, a high-tech system controls the heat, humidity and more in the 11 acres of the business' greenhouses. Even with all the technology, the area's run of subzero weather has posed challenges to the 116-year-old family operation.
Backup generators don't erase the concern over a power outage or a boiler going on the fritz in the middle of a deep freeze, Jaeger said. Weather-related delays in the ground shipments of plant materials -- many originating in Central or South America -- can spell trouble for flower growth and sales targeted for spring if freezing occurs.
"We are farmers," said Jaeger, a 25-year Leider employee. "We're just farming indoors instead of outdoors. And so the elements control us to some degree. We can control it in some way once (the materials) are here, but they still control our sales and production."
Still, the extra nippy winter doesn't top Jaeger's list of potential weather concerns.
"I almost think hail sometimes (is a bigger problem)," he said. "Like on a (thin) roof like this, if you get a heavy hailstorm, it'll come right through it. It's big enough. Then, you've got to replace it all. It's pricey. Hail will break the glass, so hail can be a real problem. At least snow melts pretty quick."
Costco Wholesale Corp. is one of Leider's major Chicago-area clients. The business has evolved since Michael Leider emigrated from Luxembourg and began selling fresh vegetables on Chicago's North Side in 1898.