In the first half of the last century, farmers in the East End grew potatoes and other vegetables that were shipped from the St. Matthews Produce Exchange to tables all across America. Bunton Seed Co., founded in downtown Louisville by W. P. Bunton Sr. in 1924, provided them with everything they needed for bumper crops.
During World War II, it was Bunton catalogs that urged families to “grow vitamins at your kitchen door – war gardens for victory!”
Horse-drawn wagons no longer arrive at the warehouse door, and the catalogs were replaced by a website in 2000; but 87 years after its first seed was packaged, “Bunton’s” (as customers call it) is still doing what it has always done best: Helping everyone from weekend gardeners to golf course greensmen make their thumbs even greener.
The founder’s son, W. P. Bunton Jr., took over from his father in the late 1950s. In 1964, he moved the company from its original location, at Floyd and Jefferson streets, to its current one on East Jefferson Street (between South Campbell and South Wenzel). Today, Bunton’s president is his son, Win Bunton, who earned a degree in business at Stetson University and one in agronomy at Penn State.
“People ask why we’re still downtown, instead of in the suburbs,” he said. “This is the perfect location for us. We’re easy to reach from the east, west and south, and from Indiana, on the interstate. It’s easy for the commercial side of our business, and for retail customers, too.”
Two things that set Bunton’s apart from most lawn-and-garden stores are the quality and the quantity of its seeds. The company buys from growers primarily in the West – including grass from Oregon, tomatoes and cucumbers from Colorado, and beans and corn from Idaho – and then packages them under the Bunton brand.
“We see what the growers have, and select the best varieties for gardeners in our market,” Win said. “Every homeowner buys the same seed that lawn care companies buy, and the vegetable seed is the same that commercial farmers buy. And since we do our own packaging, we can sell any quantity that the customer wants, whether it’s a few ounces of corn or a whole pallet of soil.”
Now nearing the end of its ninth decade, Bunton’s keeps old-timey machines, such as a kernel-stripper and a bean-cleaner, on display in the showroom. Win’s eye, however, is on the future.
“There are always improvements coming in agriculture,” he said. “There is a need for newer and better products that can increase production per acre. That’s the challenge, because we’ve got to feed the world.”
photos by MARY ALAN WOODWARD | contributing photographer
Category: Business Profile