RUETENIK GARDENS has been an innovative leader in northeastern Ohio's greenhouse vegetable-growing industry since its founding in the 1880s. Martin L. Ruetenik, son of Rev. HERMAN J. RUETENIK, was a young truck farmer on Schaaf Rd. when he built Cleveland's first greenhouse there in 1885 and began raising leaf lettuce and tomatoes. Ruetenik used scientific methods of cultivation and many of his farming techniques were adopted widely, making him an industry leader both locally and nationally. The financial success of his business enabled him to initiate a profit-sharing plan with his employees in 1902. In 1907 Ruetenik had an entire acre under glass, and by 1924 his greenhouse complex had expanded to 3.5 acres. He was influential in establishing several grower industry organizations, served as president of the Lincoln Savings & Banking Co., and was the first mayor of BROOKLYN HTS. after its incorporation.
Following Martin Ruetenik's death in 1947, ownership of the business passed to his daughter, Dorothea, and her husband, Walter F. Pretzer, whose farming methods also gained a national reputation. After Pretzer's death in 1959, their son Richard inherited Ruetenik Gardens. High energy costs in the 1970s reduced profits, sharply reducing the greenhouse acreage in the Cleveland area, and Richard Pretzer experimented in growing and marketing crops other than lettuce and tomatoes. In 1995 he and his son, Walter, concentrated on raising herbs and greens for local restaurants and gourmet cooks.