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Longtime manager for Earl May Center to retire soon

Earl May Manager.JPG

Mike Pudenz, the manager for the Carroll Earl May Garden Center, standing behind the front register of the store on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Working for the garden store since 1973, Pudenz will officially retire this year.

Mike Pudenz, the store manager for the local Earl May Garden Center, has worked at the store since 1973, when he was 19-years-old. After 50 years of helping customers make sure they have the right tools and supplies for their gardens, Pudenz is planning to retire later this year. March 26 will officially mark his 50th year of working for the garden store.

On March 30, the Carroll Chamber of Commerce will host a Night Shift at the Earl May Garden Center to celebrate the retirement of Pudenz. The event will go from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Earl May Garden Center is a full service garden center, carrying lawn and garden seeds one needs throughout the year. They carry vegetable, perennial and annual plants.

In their nursery, the selection ranges from small shrubs to large trees, as well as having a selection of house plants. They also carry chemicals and fertilizers needed for gardens.

When he first started, Pudenz said Earl May was downtown close to the city’s police station is located.

Growing up on a farm, Pudenz said he was interested in working outdoors, particularly with plants and gardening.

“I thought this would be a good fit,” Pudenz said.

In 1977, Pudenz stepped in as the manager for the store in Boone, where he stayed for eight years. In 1985, Pudenz transferred to the store in Denison, working there until 1995. Since then, Pudenz moved back to Carroll to work at his current store, where he has stayed for the last 28 years.

Coming from a small community himself, Pudenz said he wanted to transfer to a location in a town of a similar size when he moved between stores.

When he comes into work everyday, Pudenz said mostly enjoys working with people and getting to know the customers.

With the transition of the four seasons, Pudenz said it helps bring different facets to his job.

“You have Spring, which is probably the most enjoyable when you get all the plants and flowers and gardening in,” Pudenz said. “In the Summer is where we change our displays and gear up for another season and then Fall comes and there’s another season with mums and different types of plant material. At Christmastime, we gear up for Christmas trees and outdoor decorations and things like that, so it’s never the same. It’s always changing, always different.”

After over 20 years of working at the store, Pudenz said he gets to know everybody by their first name.

“That’s what I’ll probably miss the most, just seeing a lot of people that I normally see on a weekly or monthly basis,” Pudenz said.

Throughout his years working at Earl May, Pudenz said they have a program where they donate trees for community spaces as a way to build strong habitats.

A few of the locations they’ve planted include the Miracle League field at Kellan’s Kingdom and St. Anthony’s Cancer Center.

As he transitions into retirement, Pudenz said he still plans to work part-time until the end of July.

“I’ve always been active and wanted to continue working, just maybe at a slower pace,” Pudenz said.

Pudenz is married to his wife, Patty, and they have four kids and five grandchildren. Pudenz said all of his children are graduates of the Kuemper Catholic School System.

Once he’s fully retired, Pudenz said he plans on continuing doing lawn work working outside, as well as seeing his kids and grandchildren to help them with their projects.

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