By Jen Bakken
DELANO, MN Everyone has a story to tell. From A to Z, each week this new series will introduce readers to our neighbors in the Delano area, one story at a time.
The gray barn with green trees painted on each end sits along Highway 12 greeting drivers from east and west.
Located in Independence near Nelson Road, it is often used as a landmark to give driving directions, but the trees have more of a purpose than to direct drivers they represent AAA Nursery and Landscaping.
Art Ahlstrom is celebrating his 20th anniversary of owning and operating his family business AAA Nursery and Landscaping.
“We have 40 acres here and 45 varieties of trees native to Minnesota,” said Ahlstrom. “If you stop for a visit, we’ll take you on a golf cart to pick the perfect trees. We’ll even dig it up and put it in your yard for you.”
They also offer fill and pulverized black dirt for new yards or fixing an existing yard, driveway rock, sand, and decorative rock available for delivery or pick-up. His favorite saying is, “The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago, the second best time is today.”
Planting the trees takes place in the spring and fall. During the summer, Ahlstroms’s business is seven days a week, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I like to work,” he said. “I have to keep busy and I enjoy people.”
Ahlstrom and his wife, Katie, built their home on Nelson Road in 1972. Katie has worked for Wells Fargo for 36 years, managing its construction lending division for the Twin Cities.
While Ahlstrom drove semi truck for Kemps, he began planting and selling trees part-time. In the beginning days, he would begin his day driving semi at 2 a.m., get home around 3 p.m., then work on his tree business until dark.
Eventually his business needed more space, and in 1989, he purchased the Ray Kittock farm which adjoined his property. He used to dig trees by hand, but now owns two tree spades, changing it from a 3 to 4 hour job to dig up a tree into a simple task done in minutes.
Ahlstrom has two children, Lisa (Lynch), and Eric Ahlstrom, along with five grandchildren, who all live in the area. His son, Eric, and son in-law, Jeff Lynch, both help on the tree farm part time. It began as a family business and remains that way today.
Many people stop by Ahlstrom’s shop to visit and also catch a glimpse of his latest project.
Currently there are six colorful “projects” in his collection, full of shiny chrome, collector’s plates, and all have the name Chevorlet proudly displayed.
There is a 1948 two-door Style Master (kept completely original) purchased because it’s the year Ahlstrom was born. There are two Sedans one from 1955 and another from 1957. A 1980 Convertible Corvette is his wife’s baby, and Ahlstrom’s favorite cars are his 1955 and 1956 Nomads.
“Don’t call them a station wagon because they aren’t,” he said while speaking of his Nomads. “They are two-doors and a rare collector car; just look at those chrome strips on the back.”
Ahlstrom belongs to the Pair-A-Dice Car Cruisers Club and the Wright County Car Club and, though he does attend car shows, he doesn’t display his own vehicles.
“Oh, that’s just not for me,” he shook his head. “Sitting there while other people look at your car I just want to drive them.”
And drive them he does, putting nearly 400 miles on each car over the summer months, which he can prove with his mileage log.
Spring, summer, and fall, Ahlstrom loves them all. His business keeps him busy and he can enjoy his cars, but winter that’s another story.
“Winter is no good,” he admitted. “It’s not my thing, just too cold, so I travel to places like Mexico, Jamaica, Florida, and Arizona.
Each year he heads to Arizona with a group of nine men to attend the Barret Jackson Car Auction.
All of the mechanical work necessary for his business or his cars is done right at his shop. Though he doesn’t do the body work, he does put in new interiors, new chrome, and of course, enjoys showing off his cars and talking about them.
“I’ve always loved cars,” he said. “I built a street rod when I was 19 and I guess a part of me never grew up.”