The Hawks Nursery Company was founded in 1875 by Charles Hawks, Sr. and Theodore Ferguson as an agency business selling plant stock (largely fruit trees, shade trees and shrubs) to farmers and area residents, as well as to people in the newly forming cities of the Midwest. By the late 1800's, there were over 200 Hawks sales representatives who traveled the country by horse and buggy or rail, in order to visit their customers once or twice each year.
The depression years of the 1930's forced Hawks to look to other sources of business than just the growing and shipping of stock. Thus, the addition of ornamental landscaping services helped the firm to grow financially. Through the 1940's and 1950's, many acres of land were sold, as the work in the contracting division continued to grow. In the 1950's John Orton and Jim Bennett joined the company, bringing new ideas and ushering in a new era at Hawks. By the 1970's, the ten-acre nursery reduced more of its in-ground stock area so that a new garden center facility could be added.
In 1993, Joseph Kresl, a prominent area landscape architect, purchased Hawks and proceeded to implement major changes in the day-to-day operations of the business and the range of services offered. A sparkling new retail garden center was constructed and the floral and gift departments were now under the same roof as the nursery, landscape design and management divisions. Today Hawks is the leading full service garden and landscape center in the Milwaukee area.