Hsu’s growing

(First published in the May 10, 2018 issue of City Pages)

The ginseng company has been in the business of composting for a long time. Its new standalone retail store in Wausau just makes it easier for customers.


Will Hsu shows off a display of various types of soil available at Hsu’s Growing Supply, at its grand opening. The store is a natural offshoot of the company’s ginseng roots, Hsu says.

In order to grow ginseng, one needs a pretty good knowledge of soil, in particular, how to nurture it so that plants grow to their full potential.

So after decades in the ginseng business, it’s fitting that Hsu’s Ginseng has launched a retail store for gardeners. The ginseng giant and Marathon County staple headquartered just north of Wausau off of Highway W opened its Hsu’s Growing Supply retail store on site to sell all things soil, seed, mulch and chemicals. “We won’t have a greenhouse or sell flowers,” says Will Hsu, vice president of Hsu’s Ginseng. “But you will have all the supplies to grow your own.”

This retail business is not new for the company; what’s new is that the company now has a dedicated store for it. Hsu’s has for years provided gardeners and other plant enthusiasts with soil to help their growing efforts, mostly through a trailer parked on the Hsu’s Ginseng grounds.

And something many people might not know: All those leaves you raked last fall and hauled to the city’s yard waste site? They go to Hsu’s to be composted into soil. Hsu’s serves as the yard waste drop off site for some municipalities such as the town of Texas and the village of Maine as well. Wausau hauls the yard waste to Hsu’s, saving it the potential cost of disposing of it. “Instead of going into the landfill, the yard waste is composted into soils that you would use in potting soil or mulch in your flower bed,” Hsu says. “It’s a green part of our business.”

Along with plenty of soil options for everything from gardening to planting a flower in your windowsill, Hsu’s Growing Supply also carries a variety of fertilizers and pest control products, and many of the other accouterments of gardening and growing plants. It also employs several master gardeners, who have the knowledge to help with just about any gardening project, Hsu says. They also sell the various supplies needed to grow ginseng itself, Hsu says.

One of those master gardeners told City Pages that Hsu’s Growing Supply will have a garden behind the retail store, and will give away the veggies to those who need it. They also plan to hold a number of educational events for the public about gardening, composting and soil management.

Hsu’s growing supply business provides some economic diversity coincidentally at a challenging time for Marathon County ginseng growers. China’s recently announced 15% tariff on ginseng imports—imposed in retaliation to President Trump’s new trade policies toward China—could hurt Marathon County ginseng growers. Hsu says about a third of its ginseng customers are in mainland China and the tariff is likely to impact all American ginseng growers here. It was an especially hard blow considering that growers just got a boost from the first-ever International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival in September 2017 that brought hundreds of tourists to the area, including many from China.

Hsu’s has long had a diverse operation, however. The company has sold wood fiber pellets for pellet stoves, landscape supplies and equipment to grow ginseng. The retail store was the next logical step, Hsu says. “It’s a natural outreach from our ginseng roots,” Hsu says. “Sorry, pun intended.”