Companies” is a monthly feature where we recount the odd beginnings, interesting
permutations, or otherwise unique and noteworthy circumstances of a toy or hobby
manufacturer. If you think you know of a Cool Company that you’d like to see
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By Timothy Dickey
Venus Fly Trap
you walk into Dean Cook’s greenhouses, the first thing you hear is
the urgent buzz of a hundred tiny fly wings.
Located on the outskirts of Eugene, Oregon, Cook’s
operation is next door to a cattle farm, so a plague of winged pests
is to be expected. You
prepare to duck and cover.
But with grim satisfaction you realize there’s no need for
shelter; the buzzing comes from within pitcher plants on the
greenhouse shelves. Inside
those beautiful, vat-like flowers, flies are making a futile effort
to free themselves from thick digestive juices that were until
recently terribly attractive.
Too bad bugs can’t read. They
might have seen the delivery van outside, on which is clearly
painted “Cook’s Carnivorous Plants.”
If there were a literal colony of cottage industries, Dean
Cook’s operation might be considered the creepy house up on the
hill. In reality, his
self-made business grew from a childhood fascination with
flesh-eating flora, and a more recent desire to educate people about
a fascinating genre of plants.
Also, to be quite honest, he was a bit bored with diesel
“My education lies in Auto/Diesel mechanics,” Cook explains, and
he actually worked for a few years in the auto parts trade.
But toward the end of his stint as a parts manager, he
revived his interest in Venus flytraps.
It was the only carnivorous plant he stumbled on from time to
“Then I ran across a catalog where I could purchase other
varieties…(it) was the only place listed in the magazines.”
He placed an order, only to be disappointed when what arrived
was barely alive. Cook,
who’d grown up helping his parents sell plants at flea markets,
had an idea.
myself then that they needed some competition…”
One of the hurdles Cook has to overcome is people’s
expectation that the average Venus flytrap will either show up dead
upon mail-order delivery, or die shortly thereafter due to
unsuitable conditions in mainland America.
Many people are surprised to learn the Venus flytrap is
actually native to North and South Carolina.
Cook explains that the flytrap and many other species he
carries grow quite well in the range of U.S. climates.
The problem he had experienced as a customer was due to weak
plants and poor growing instructions.
At one time retail flytraps were cultivated for quick sale,
but not to stay alive perennially.
Sometimes they withered within the week.
“As a child, that can be very disheartening,” Cook
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