Florist Leo Kinsch helped make Palatine beautiful for decades
The owner of one of the oldest florists in the Northwest suburbs, with a history going back more than 80 years in Palatine, has died.
Leo Kinsch arrived in the suburbs as a teenager, after his father, Valentine, learned of a nursery for sale in Palatine. The elder Kinsch was able to purchase its three greenhouses, set on 3½ acres, for $4,500. Leo was one of five siblings who worked alongside their parents to establish the business.
Kinsch Village Florist & Garden Center, tucked away in downtown Palatine and still using the original three greenhouses, has been a local destination since 1938.
Leo Kinsch, whose children now run the business, died peacefully on Feb. 24. He was 94.
"My father wanted Palatine to be a more colorful place," says his son, Ken Kinsch. "He was very involved in the community and was especially supportive of local businesses."
The Kinsch family roots were in Luxembourg, and they, like a number of other Luxembourgers who lived in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood and worked as florists, eventually moved out to the suburbs and set up shop. Ken Kinsch said others include Pesche's in Des Plaines, Leider's in Buffalo Grove and the former Geimer's Greenhouses in Long Grove, to name a few.
"Back in the day, the growers were all a very tight community," Ken Kinsch said. "They all tried to help one another."
Leo Kinsch's children, including daughters Valerie Wray and Linda Gilchrist, and son, Ken, all credit their father with being able to change with the times. While the family originally grew "hundreds of thousands" of carnations for wholesale trade, they established a retail flower shop in the mid-1950s.
The family then grew more seasonal varieties of cut flowers before expanding into a nursery and garden center in 1970.
"My dad built a fourth greenhouse in 1955 and then bought two more in the 1970s," Ken Kinsch says. "After we expanded into more of a garden center, we grew bedding plants, including annuals and perennials, and we featured hanging baskets."
A little more than 10 years ago, the family began hosting an autumn festival on their property. A 45-foot bridge took families to the back acres, which were transformed into a haunted forest, hay bale mountain, corn maze and a train ride that circled children through the woods.
"My father loved the fall fest," Kinsch says. "He loved his customers and loved talking to them about everything from local history to ideas for improving their gardens."
The family eventually stopped hosting the festival, but they continue to welcome customers back to their historic garden center and its surrounding property, tucked away just east of Palatine and Plum Grove roads.
Besides his children, Kinsch is survived seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary.
Visitation will take place from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday at Ahlgrim Family Funeral Home, 201 N. Northwest Hwy., Palatine. A funeral Mass is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, at St. Theresa Church, 455 N. Benton St. in Palatine.