Anniversary & Expansion

By Abby KIeckler, managing editor, Lawn & Garden Retailer

In this industry, there is no shortage of incredible family stories, and Wasson Nursery in Indiana is one of them. This garden center may not be the oldest one out there, and it may not have third, fourth or fifth generations taking the reigns (yet), but don’t let that fool you.

Dan Wasson Sr. started the business in 1977, and, with the help of sons Dan Jr. and Bob, the business opened its second location in 2008 followed by its third location this spring.

After spending a few hours at the grand opening of its newest garden center in Fishers, Indiana, I have one word to describe Wasson Nursery: momentum.

After the event I caught up with Bob Wasson, president of operations, to share a little bit more about the history of the business and why now was a great time to expand.

L&GR: Celebrating 40 years in business is a huge milestone. Can you discuss how you have gone from one location to three?

Bob Wasson: My dad started the business in 1977 in Union City, Indiana, which is a tiny, tiny town — it now has a population around 3,000 — that’s where he still lives and the original office is. We still do landscaping and lawn care and just a little bit of retail out of that store.

In the ‘90s, the Muncie area was starting to get built up and new home construction was on the rise. Dan and I had just graduated college, and we decided to build a new store in the Muncie area because that’s where all of our traffic was from.

So, in 2008, the height of the economic downturn, we opened up in Muncie a 10-acre garden center/nursery that complemented our landscaping services. It was kind of a scary time to open up a new store. Obviously we didn’t plan for the economy taking a turn for the worse, but 2008 was our best year ever up to that point and then going forward, each consecutive year has been our best year ever.

It was a great move to open that store up. Eventually we added more landscaping crews and then some of our other services to be routed out of that Muncie office, which now that office is our home base. It’s kind of our corporate headquarters.

The business has continued to grow, and it’s allowed us to expand down to the Fishers area where once again we were following the same strategies.

There’s a lot more construction going on in the Hamilton County area than in the area surrounding Muncie and Yorktown where our current store was, so we’re kind of following the traffic and took a lot of stuff that we learned from opening up the Muncie garden center and applied it to the Fishers store.

Fishers has a lot more of a focus on outdoor living and fine gardening and indoor décor as well. Our whole goal behind the garden center is that we obviously want it to be a profitable business in and of itself, but our whole concept is we want to set it up to draw in customers and show them the cool landscaping-type work that we can do and convert these garden center customers into landscaping customers as well.

L&GR: For the grand opening event, you brought in local wineries, breweries, bands and more. Do you plan on continuing these local partnerships throughout the year?

Wasson: What I want to spend the most marketing dollars on is getting people into the store. I think probably the best way to do that is to spend that money on the events and make each event a really cool experience that people are going to have a great time at and go back and tell five friends about how neat the place was, how pretty it was and how much cool product we had.

I think there’s a lot better return on investment with your advertising/marketing dollars that you spend on actual events and customer experience versus throwing an ad in the newspaper or throwing an ad on a billboard. I feel like you’re wasting half your money — and you don’t know what half — when you do that kind of stuff.

With the events, you get actual feedback from customers. You get people tagging themselves on social media and sharing with their friends. And it’s not just the customers that come in but these breweries, wineries and bands too. They’re all telling their friends, family and fans on social media what they’re doing and where they are.

It expands exposure, and of course they’re going to promote the fact they’re out there at our store. It’s this network of community members that are all promoting the same event and you’ve got the power of leverage.

I love events, and that’s kind of our theme in Fishers. We want to do at least two big events a month. It’s just all about creating a customer experience.

Something we harp to our staff all the time is it’s all about reactions over transactions, so that customer experience is more important than any sale. I’d rather have someone come in and have a good experience.

(Article provided by Lawn & Garden Retailer)

Over 40 New Exhibitors To Debut At Arett’s 2017 Open House

The following new exhibitors will be featured at the 2017 Arett Open House. These vendors will be offering a variety of exciting new products to Arett’s already extensive Open House selection, including garden decor, planters, growing media, birding, raised garden beds, fertilizer, gardening books, gardening sunglasses, traps, repellents, hose reels, and much, much more.

Don’t miss your chance to visit these booths and see the new merchandise in person. Register now for the 2017 Arett Open House at ArettOpenHouse.com.

Exhibitor #ExhibitorProduct Category
--American Wood FibersFirewood
A25ArtechPlanters
C99CookinaGrill Accessories
C63Cutler Communications2-Way Radios
D22Devco Anywhere FireplaceGarden Decor
--dZiBirding
E94Earth Alive Clean TechnologiesSoil Activator
E95EcoClear ProductsRodent Control
E92EZ NectarHummingbird
--FlexonHose
--Global Vision EyewhereGardening Sunglasses
G98Green Earth TechnologiesInsect Traps
G95GrowScriptsPlant Care Fertilizer
H22Harbor GardensGarden Decor
--HomeBoxIndoor Gardening
--Kness Pest DefenseRodent Control
--Knobleworm OrganicsEarthworm Castings
L30Liberty GardenHose Reels
--Love GreenSeed Starting
M96MPM Pan Pacific Inc - GonzoMole Traps
--Murphy's NaturalsMosquito Repellent
--Old Truck OrganicsOrganic Fertilizer
O99Organic Ag ProductsPlant Care Fertilizer
P97Pest WizardInsect Traps
P94PittMossGrowing Media
--Plant ScaperPlant Support System
P58Plant Revolution Inc. - Plant SuccessOrganic Fertilizer
--Precious MomentsGarden Decor
--Premier Tech - PromixGrowing Media
K55Skyhorse PublishingGardening Books
D80ASouthern PatioChimineas & Fire Pits
S93Srills ProductsAll Natural Controls
S97Sun Bulb Company (Better Gro)Plant Fertilizer & Growing Media
--Sunlight SupplyIndoor Gardening
G04SureCanGas Can
S96SustaneOrganic Fertilizer
--TenaxFencing & Netting
T95Think OutsideVietnemese Metal Art
--Tick KeyTick Removal Tool
T75Timber BayGarden Decor
T12Tree DiaperTree Watering
--Turf TrustFertilizer
B67BUneak ProductsRaised Bed Gardens
V14VegepodRaised Bed Gardens
W82Wild Valley FarmsAll Natural Fertilizer

Reserve Your Seat Now For These Open House Special Events!

Arett U Presents:
Kick Off Keynote & Brunch
High Performance Leadership: Engaging the Generational Workforce

How to Apply Leadership Principals to Improve Employee Engagement and Build a Better Culture for Growth and Profitability
Speaker: Jason Young
Location: Atlantic City Convention Center – Rooms 411/412
Date: Sunday Sept. 10, 2017
Time: Brunch served at 11 AM / Presentation starts 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Enjoy an inspirational encounter with Jason Young, a former senior-level manager at Southwest Airlines and a “rare breed” when it comes to developing leaders and customer service initiatives. Participants will be treated to a compelling experience that will change the way they view themselves, their customers and their company. Jason will offer insights and practical information that can be implemented immediately.

ARETT U Presents:
Are You Leaving Dollars on the Table, Shelf or Pallet?

Speaker: Ian Baldwin
Location: Atlantic City Convention Center – Rooms 411/412
Date: Monday, Sept. 11, 2017
Time: 8:00am – 9:00am
Light breakfast served starting at 7:30 AM
Learn how to succeed with your product and your brand. Your customers will be thrilled, proud and come back to do more, spend more. Ian will address how can people be so interested in gardening (More American households (91 million) are involved in gardening than ever before) and so shy in spending (is less than two months cable for most of those households)?

Ian will specifically address:

  • … how success creates customer loyalty.
  • …how to make the most of an interested, educated, time-conscious consumer who does research on-line prior to shopping and then visits your store.
  • … how to leave a customer feeling more confident and excited knowing that the products they bought were tailored to their needs.
  • …how the progressive retailers are moving towards “Solution Selling” with tried and true examples of how even small incremental sales of more “tie-ins” can build out the consumer’s basket AND make them happy!
  • …how to sell the whole “success kit” of hard goods with the plant material!
Arett U Presents:
Lunch & Learn Workshop
De-Mystifying Social Media for IGC’s

Speaker: Laura Munro
Location: Atlantic City Convention Center – Rooms 411/412
Date: Monday Sept. 11, 2017
Time: 12:15 pm
Lunch served. Attendance limited to 150. Reservations required.
Many garden centers are so busy running their business that they neglect a social media presence. If you count yourself among this group, you might want to reconsider. Over 70% of businesses report gaining new customers through Facebook alone. Take an hour out of your Arett Show visit on Monday, Sept. 11th… and while you enjoy lunch, attend a beginner’s social media workshop.

Admission to these special events is FREE to Arett customers. Open House attendees can register for these events at the same time they register for the Open House. To register online, visit ArettOpenHouse.com.

Open House Exhibitor Spotlight: Vegepod

Our Open House ‘Take Flight’ Butterfly is a symbol of a flight towards excellence and innovation to improve our industry and/or our world. As part of the 2017 Open House, we’ll be sharing stories with you from our customers and exhibitors that highlight that spirit of excellence and innovation.

Vegepod  Raised Garden Kits — Grow Veggies The Easy Way‎

Vegepod began eight years ago like any good invention, out of failure and necessity. Matt Harris, inventor and CEO, tried like 80 percent of us at some stage in life to grow and harvest vegetables at home and, again, like the vast majority of those people, kept failing for a variety of reasons.

Harris set out to construct a vegetable garden kit that could go anywhere and solve all problems in one solution. Thus the birth of Vegepod. Eight years on and Vegepods are now being sold in 80% of independent hardware stores and garden centers throughout Australia, plus in several international markets including the UK, USA, Israel, and New Zealand.

Vegepod’s innovation and incomparable gardening success rates were then realized on a winning appearance on “Shark Tank” last year. Naomi Simson jumped on board as an investor and the show created a spike in awareness for Vegepod in Australia.

The real key to Vegepod is that it works. Marketing manager, Simon Holloway, stated at the Vegas hardware that end-users are now enjoying a very mature and refined product unrivalled in its offering.

“Vegepods are not some new fan-dangle product,” Holloway said. “We have tweaked and improved them consistently over the 8 years in all areas, such as core design, materials, packaging, and accessories. We never get a single product returned and also enjoy 20% of our customers returning for a second purchase.”

Vegepods combine several key features in the one solution in what Vegepod claims to be the world’s largest, fully-contained, raised wicking bed. These features include:

  • a deep water reservoir in the base of the containers, allowing ‘self-watering wicking’ to occur and solve under-watering problems, a well directed overflow hole to solve over-watering issues
  • a protection and micro-climate canopy, which has easy-access hinging and prevents all pests, wildlife, and inclement weather from harming plants
  • a mist-spray system inside the roof of the canopy to enable easy and gentle watering connected to a hose
  • a full foot of growing depth to provide a ‘proper’ growing medium for all plants, including root vegetables
  • materials all food-safe grade
  • optional stands or trolleys to raise the pods to waist height for easy access and mobility
  • 3 size options (small, medium and large), flat packed in a surprisingly small box that fits into any car.

Harris relocated his family to California 6 months ago to drive the USA arm of the business. Brother and CFO, Paul Harris, said “We originally tested the market over here by exhibiting at three garden shows for the public. We were ecstatic to see the USA gardener was no different from our Aussie compatriots and we sold out at each show. We have simply been inundated with interest. It’s been a bit overwhelming to be honest and we have a lot of work to do to make sure the Vegepod brand is as highly regarded here as it is in Australia.”

The Vegepod is in a league of its own when it comes to the backyard or patio veggie patch. Stylish, affordable, and, most of all, efficient. You can never offer a guarantee of success when mother nature is involved, but this is definitely the best chance you have.

The Vegepod will be on display at Arett’s 2017 Open House, in Atlantic City from September 10th – 12th.  For more information, or to register for the Open House, visit ArettOpenHouse.com.

Register Now for Arett’s 11th Annual Charity Golf Tournament!

Arett Sales will once again be hosting its annual charity golf tournament to benefit the Angel Flight East organization during this year’s Open House at the Atlantic City Country Club.

Angel Flight East is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free air transportation to qualified patients and their families by arranging flights to distant medical facilities, delivering supplies to disaster areas, and reuniting families during desperate times.

The Angel Flight East volunteer pilots use their private planes to fly patients to their destinations and pay for all expenses for each mission they fly. 42% of all patients flown are children.

Founded in 1992, in response to community needs after Hurricane Andrew, local pilots formed Angel Flight East as a non profit. They flew 17 missions during that first year and have continued to grow the service each year. With more than 425 volunteer pilots based in 22 states, an average of 800 missions are coordinated each year.

As one of America’s oldest and most prestigious golf clubs, Atlantic City Country Club has been home to many firsts, including being the “Birth place of the Birdie.” The course has a tradition of fast and firm greens with uncompromising playing conditions and its bayside setting is reminiscent of the historic links in Scotland and Ireland.

Now is your opportunity to walk in the footsteps of champions on the legendary golf course named the #1 Public/Daily Fee golf Course in the state of New Jersey. Steeped in history and tradition, the Atlantic City Country Club was the birthplace of The PGA Senior Tour and hosted the PGA Inaugural Seniors Tournament in 1980 won by Don January. It has also been the site of several other major events, including the 1901 USGA Amateur and the USGA Women’s Opens in 1948, 1965, and 1975 – won by “Babe” Zaharias, Carol Mann, and Sandra Palmer.

Admission to the tournament is FREE to Arett customers. Prizes are awarded for closest-to-the-pin, hole-in-one, tee-busters, and more! Open House attendees can register for the tournament at the same time they register for the Open House. To register online, visit ArettOpenHouse.com.

Contributions to Angel Flight East are voluntary. To learn more about Angel Flight East, visit: www.angelflighteast.org.

Merchant’s Picks for August

Want to know what hot items you should have on your shelves for this month? Find out with this list of Merchant’s Picks for August 2017.

Merchant Picks - August 2017

Item NumberItem NameWHY A MERCHANT PICK?
B70 022Bonide Neem Oil Quart RTUAn all purpose insecticide, miticide, fungicide for organic gardening. Neem Oil is an excellent choice for use on virtually any plant, including roses, flowers, vegetables, herbs, spices, houseplants, trees, turf, and shrubs. Kills all stages of insects - eggs, larvae and adults.
C19 55 Classic Brands 64 oz. Hummingbird NectarAugust is the last month to help these tiny adventurous birds get ready for their long migration.
H63 7341006Hestra Women's Garden Rose GlovesDurable, soft, goatskin leather glove with a long cowhide cuff. Perfect for fall preparation and pruning back the plants before the first frost.
S09 21605Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass For Fall Grass Seed PlantingImproves lawn's ability to absorb water and nutrients. Safe for all grass types - including sod and grass plugs. Won't burn lawns.
S09 38605DScotts Turf Builder Winterguard Fall Lawn Food 5MBuilds strong deep grass roots for a better lawn next spring. WaterSmart improves the lawn's ability to absorb water and nutrients versus an unfed lawn.
S09 38615Scotts Turf Builder Winterguard Fall Lawn Food 15MBuilds strong deep grass roots for a better lawn next spring. WaterSmart improves the lawn's ability to absorb water and nutrients versus an unfed lawn.
T34 30465Truper Tru-Tough Poly Shrub RakeIdeal for mid-summer yard clean up. Home owner grade poly shrub rake with 8" head and 48" wood handle.
T34 30480Tru-Tough Steel Leaf Rake With Wood HandleIdeal for mid-summer yard clean up. Steel lawn and leaf rake with a 54" lacquered ash wood handle. 24" wide green head. The handle is fastened with a heavy-duty bolt through construction and nylon nut.
W75 1020 Havahart Two Door Mouse TrapIdeal for catching mice, shrews, and similar-size nuisance animals. Proven efficacy derived from extensive field testing means higher catch rate and fewer escapes. Made to last - resists rust and corrosion.

Merchant’s Picks For July

Want to know what hot items you should have on your shelves for this month? Find out with this list of Merchant’s Picks for July 2017.

Merchant Picks - July 2017

Item NumberItem NameWHY A MERCHANT PICK?
C45 0220910Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer for Indoor & Perimeter With Comfort Wand - 1.1 GallonCreates a bug barrier that controls household bugs up to 12 months. For indoor and outdoor use.
D40 1012700 DRAMM 9-Pattern Revolver AssortmentIt's now the height of watering season. Nozzle comes in 6 assorted colors. Ergonomic grip with heavy-duty construction.
D99 DT1050DEC2DynaTrap 1/2 Acre Insect and Mosquito TrapA 3-way protection attracts and exterminates insects. Provides 1/2 acre coverage.
E07 ALGA16Microbe-Lift AlgAway 5.4 AlgaecideUse to control string algae in ponds and water fountains during hot summer months. Safe for fish and plants.
E07 AUTPREPMicrobe-Life Autumn/Winter PrepBe ready for the end of summer when customers will need to start thinking about getting their ponds ready for fall and winter.
M35 XT4200 Melnor Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler 3,900 sq. ft. coverage sprinkler with built-in flow control. Provides even coverage.
S70 146002Bloom Booster Flower Food - 4 lb.This is the time of year to feed and keep flowers blooming. Starts working instantly. Provides quick, beautiful results.
W28 804064 Wet & Forget Outdoor - 64 oz. Ready to UseThe easy way to eliminate tough moss, mold, mildew and algae stains from outdoor surfaces. Biodegradable, bleach-free and non-acidic.

Open For Business

By Abby Kleckler

The sting in the industry can be felt every time a garden center closes its doors. Your businesses are full of history, enthusiasm and a goal to help every one of your customers.

Both retail and horticulture are changing though, and often the conversation centers around how to get new shoppers into the store while keeping current customers engaged.

Lawn & Garden Retailer spoke separately with two garden center owners who are new to the retail space. They represent the younger demographic many of you are trying to relate to, they provide a fresh perspective to their businesses and they have a passion that drew them to the industry.

First, Jared Hughes has been in the industry for a number of years. After the untimely passing of an industry friend of his, Jeff Russell, who owned Fargo Herbs in Marengo, Ohio, Jared and his wife Liz purchased that business. Groovy Plants Ranch — which was primarily wholesaling succulents at the time — moved to the old Fargo Herbs site and opened its retail operation last spring.

Second, Chris Williamson and his wife Lilly had been customers of Piedmont Feed and Garden Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for years. When the owners were looking to retire three years ago, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for Chris and Lilly to combine their hobbies with their careers, and they bought the business in December 2013.

Here are inside looks at each of their businesses.

L&GR: How has the past year been not only transitioning to a new location but also doing retail for the first time? What have you been most surprised about?

Jared Hughes: Of course I’d already been in business for like eight years under Groovy Plants, and that was a brand and business that I put a lot of myself into, so I wasn’t crazy about just dropping it, so we did change the name of Fargo Herbs to Groovy Plants, and over the past year, we’ve kind of been putting our own stamp on things, while still retaining a lot of what Fargo Herbs was.

I have lived out in the country for over half my life. Everything for us was wholesale up until last year, so I could take my plants down to the city, and they sold great, but I really didn’t know how people would respond.

We had no records from Fargo Herbs as far as their plant mix or their yearly sales records, so finding our product mix was hard. We closed in January, which a lot of our stuff should have already been going by then, so we were just scrambling to grow anything we could.

The biggest thing with Groovy Plants up until this point was “grow the stuff no one else would bother with.” Of course, everyone is growing succulents now, but for a while there if you were getting succulents, you were getting them out of Florida or California.

No one was really messing with them, and we’d already built a great following with our succulents.

The question kind of came down to, “Do we do a bread-and-butter mix for the folks that already purchased from Fargo Herbs, so we don’t alienate them, or do we just stick to our really weird stuff and just hope people come out and buy that?”

It was about trying to strike a balance. I think one of the best things we ever did for the business was give it a funny name like Groovy Plants because people remember it. Groovy Plants basically entails that it’s stuff that I like to grow, which not all of it is crazy. We do a lot of perennials, tons of succulents.

So the biggest surprise I had was how much people were really into the unique plants, and there’s more of a niche market down in the city, but I had no data or information to go off of, so I ended up pitching a bunch of bread-and-butter annuals that I had no business messing with anyway.

L&GR: Can you talk a little bit about demographics, who’s shopping at Groovy Plants and what your offerings are?

 Hughes: I’ve sat through plenty of the lectures on what’s wrong with today’s garden center, how do we attract millennials, and what can you do for your business. And when I was at Foertmeyer & Sons [Greenhouse in Delaware, Ohio], that was one of the things I dealt with: What do we do to get a younger audience and keep people engaged?

When we came here, it was an instant fit. We instantly solved the riddle. It feels really good that we have a young following, and it’s just been impressive.

I mean I wanted to stay in the country just because I love living out here and have peace and quiet during my downtime, which I value. Then all of a sudden, we find out there’s a brewery right down the road, which is completely out of place. This is the country, lots of farmland.

But there’s this brewery that also has a restaurant in Columbus, and you could kind of say these plants are like the perfect hipster plant. Our demographic is so different.

You get a bunch of bodybuilders coming in here to buy air plants from the city. They got in their car and drove 40 minutes north to buy air plants, and it’s just one of those things we really couldn’t expect.

We still have the traditional customer; I call her Jenny, who’s like 45 and maybe has a couple kids. And she’s still here and loves it, but we get all kinds of young people too, as well as older customers.

I was concerned that maybe with the silly name there might be some turnoff especially being in a rural area, and that was just a total miscalculation.

We started playing with plant breeding a couple years ago, and hopefully there’s some things coming out on the market. I can’t talk much about it yet, but plant breeding is something we’re really interested in, especially with succulents.

Some of what we want to do is offer some of those plants exclusively here, so maybe our F1 hybrids that we don’t necessarily want to push into the market because they don’t necessarily have wide market appeal, but they might have appeal here as essentially a craft-grown item.

A lot of people my age [29] are buying things on Etsy because it’s a one-of-a-kind item made by an artist. Well the same kind of goes — or at least that’s how I envision — for all these F1 hybrids that aren’t really worth putting on the market, but they really are one-of-a-kind plants that you actually can’t get anywhere else.

We’ve already done a bit of selling them, but I want to market it as a unique side of the business.

The first season we had to buy a few things in, but most things we grow ourselves, and we call them small-batch plants. We’re not doing 10,000 of one crop. We’re doing 100 of one crop, or maybe 500 at most. Even the plants that are not unique just to our business are propriety plants. Every plant that moves through here was hand planted by us, so we very much project that this is a craft-grown business.

I personally love desert gardens, and I live in Ohio, so that can be difficult. We grow a lot of unique and rare plants from seed and cold-hardy cacti and succulents are a big part of that, so we have a pretty hardy collection of cold hardy cacti that you can grow in the ground, in Ohio, over winter.

You pull into our tiny little parking lot, and the first thing you see is this straight up Arizona rock garden in front that is loaded with cacti that are blooming. We put big agaves in the ground that’s like a desert scene.

We’ve gotten more comments and questions like, “Do those things stay outside all winter?” and we’re like, “Yes, they do, and we have them right over here.” Because we grow a lot of unique plants, there’s a lot of education involved in the selling process.

L&GR: What’s the experience like at Groovy Plants, and, in addition to plant breeding, are there other things in the pipeline for your second retail season?

Hughes: We have a unique experience. One of our greenhouses has an Old Wild West Mercantile front end on it, and it looks like an Old West store when you walk in and it’s all succulents, the whole greenhouse.

We have this hippie Western theme going on, and succulents inspired a lot of it. People seem to respond to it; it’s super unique and not like anywhere else nearby.

We’re hoping this year we’ll be able to focus on the online store and actually start promoting it more.

We’ve been using the schoolhouse on the property for workshops and classes, which is something I did at Foertmeyer & Sons. This first year with classes, it was more just testing the waters, but they were popular enough for us to know that they will be great if we invest a little more time into them, so that’s why we renovated the schoolhouse.

It’s not that difficult to fill the schoolhouse because it’ll hold about 30 people, and if we get to the point where we’re doing three workshops a week, that would be great.

Also, because we do unique plants, we’re kind of a natural fit for garden groups, and garden groups spend money.

People go back and forth on garden groups and whether they’re worth their time but for us it’s very much so. They can come do their meetings and events and then tour the property and buy plants.

The classroom is a great use of the space, and we kind of think about it romantically in that the space is being used for what it was originally intended for.

You can go to any garden center and probably find most of what we have there, but you can’t find it the same way you can here.

When people come, they’re talking to me; they’re talking to the owner. We don’t have employees. I’m going to hire my first employee this spring, so yeah, it’s small and our volume is pretty great.

I’ve just been blown away and am excited for spring because I know it’ll be great.

L&GR: What made you want to start this adventure three years ago? What was your vision when you first purchased the store?

Chris Williamson: My wife and I had both been customers of this business independently before we got married, and we knew the owner well and all of our hobbies are sort of tied up in the business.

I’ve been a gardener for a long time, and my wife and I both ride horses and have dogs, cats, chickens and sort of a mini-homestead thing. We were in careers that we were not pleased with, and the opportunity to buy this business came open and we thought it sounded like a much better lifestyle in an arena that we were really interested in and in a market we thought had a lot of potential.

So a lot of check boxes just sort of lined up for us, and we’ve been really pleased with it.

The business is split between garden center and feed store. So those two businesses were sort of there, and we felt like there was a lot of room for expansion down some different veins of those businesses.

For instance, the store sold plants before but not nearly the quantity or number of varieties that we do currently. They didn’t really do pottery, so we’ve added pottery. They didn’t do decorative indoor pottery, so we’ve added that. So we have some associated lines that seemed like no-brainers to us.

They had a basic wild bird section and we’ve really beefed up wild birds and brought in a higher end line of feed and different types of feed.

The basics were here, but we have just really expanded on those.

L&GR: Can you talk a bit about your customers? Who’s coming through your doors and how you get people to stop for the first time?

Williamson: We redid the front landscaping of our store. When we bought the store, there was a huge line of 6-foot tall hollies that completely lined our road frontage.

This past spring we pulled those out and repositioned our sign, lit our sign and put in a 200-foot-long pollinator garden that is completely along our road frontage, and we have been amazed at the number of people who have come in and say, “I drive by your store every day, but I had no idea you were here.”

We sort of joke that pulling out those hollies was the best business decision that we’ve ever made, and the cheapest. That has been really good for getting new customers in. 

We’ve also seen in the last three years the work we’ve put into the garden center end of the business as far as expanding plant selection, the feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. And just as the word of mouth has spread, it’s really rewarding to see people come in the door.

We have been able to target new people. Because of the geographic location that we’re in, we’re just outside of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area, which is a really progressive, educated area.

A lot of the first organic farmer’s markets in the area were founded in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area, and we’ve got sort of that clientele, but our store is 7 miles outside of town in a much more rural area, so we also have cattle farmers.

It’s just an interesting mix of demographics as far as the customer base goes.

I’ve joined the Chapel Hill Garden Club and we offer a discount on plants to them, so we’ve gotten a lot of new customers from that. We have a lot of new customers just in general.

We’ve really upped our social media game, which was essentially non-existent before we bought this store. They had a Facebook page that wasn’t utilized and when it was, the content was kind of questionable, so we’ve completely revamped it, and we’ve started an Instagram account.

L&GR: Are there any categories that have really surprised you?

Williamson: We added in fairy gardening two years ago, and that has done extraordinarily well.

Along with just the fairy gardening stuff, we’ve added miniature plants. We carry a miniature conifer line, 2-inch terrarium plants and succulents, and all that stuff has done really well. That’s been a really consistent performer.

Our fairy gardening classes are really good. We usually have one every other weekend in the spring, and we’re going to add them in the fall this year. They’ve generally had a really strong attendance and the per-ticket sales on those are really strong.

We also get a lot of comments from customers that say they’re so pleased we have our pollinator garden out there.

There’s a focus on native plants that are beneficial for pollinators and also for birds, so we get a lot of positive feedback from that.

A restaurant locally saw us on social media, and we did a pollinator install at their restaurant as a result of it, which was really great.

We have a big focus on pollinators, and beneficial plants for birds and pollinators. We also do a big business in vegetables in the spring.

L&GR: What have you been most surprised by in the past three years?

Williamson: We’ve gotten to know so many of our customers, which has been a really positive thing for us.

We know so many of our customers’ names and their pets’ names and we know what’s going on with their kids, so we do 25,000 tickets [transactions] a year but we see repeat business which is really, really nice.

We kept all of the existing staff when we bought the company, so we have really leaned on those folks. Our manager has been with us for 11 years and has been tremendously helpful.

Also, we’ve got a really good network of local growers that we have gotten to know, and we’re really able to draw on them for what’s going to work this season or what’s not going to work.

I’ve been really surprised in this area that a couple businesses in the industry have sold to people with no background in the industry like us, which is somewhat reassuring that we didn’t just jump off a cliff.

Literally all of our hobbies are things that we have in the store, so it’s really sort of an extension of our personal lifestyle, which is nice.

You get to do what you’re interested in for work. What better thing is there than that?

(Article provided by Lawn & Garden Retailer)

Merchant’s Picks For June

Want to know what hot items you should have on your shelves for this month? Find out with this list of Merchant’s Picks for June 2017.

Merchant Picks - June 2017

Item NumberItem NameWHY A MERCHANT PICK?
B08 700280BBayer Advanced Complete Insect Killer For Soil And Turf LiquidKills listed surface insects in 24 hours. Kills soil insects for up to 3 months. Kills the most common lawn pests including: ants, fleas, ticks, and others.
B70 982Bonide Rose ShieldControls insects and diseases on contact and systematically for up to 30 days on roses and many ornamental plants
D40 1012700Dramm Revolver AssortmentRevolver nozzle featuring nine different spray patterns, quick-click pattern changing, ergonomic insulated grip, and heavy-duty construction. Comes in six assorted colors.
F75 R408American Hand Flags8" x 12" printed American hand flags. Stock up now in time for the 4th of July.
S09 22305Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food 32-0-4Feeds and strengthens to help protect against future problems. Builds strong, deep roots.
S09 99605Scotts GrubEx Season-Long Grub KillerOne application kills and prevents grubs all season (up to 4 months). Guaranteed! Kills 25% more grub types than original GrubEx.
S20 61067Cutter Backyard Bug Control SprayBackyard Bug Control with the active ingredient lambda-cyhalothrin. Effectively controls ticks, mosquitoes, spiders, and many other insects.
S20 HG94127 Repel Permethrin Clothing & Gear Insect RepellentSpray on repellent with active ingredient permethrin to keep off the ticks when you are out doors. Be prepared for one of the worst projected tick seasons in decades due to the mild winters.
T18 400150PDQZero-G Advanced Garden Hose with Try Me DisplayerThis hose is lightweight, kink-free, easy to maneuver, and easy to store. Suitable for all watering needs.

Merchant’s Picks For May

Want to know what hot items you should have on your shelves for this month? Find out with this list of Merchant’s Picks for May 2017.

Merchant Picks - May 2017

Item NumberItem NameWHY A MERCHANT PICK?
A42 RP625 True Temper Poly Wheelbarrow - 6 cu. ft.Poly tray that will never rust or corrode and is designed to provide years of service.
A63 NT3700ACLBellingham Nitrile Touch GlovesA best seller! Protects gardener’s hands as they dig in the dirt. A good impulse item and add on sale!
E72 12010 Mole Scram Mole RepellentWarm weather, sun, and rain brings out the moles. One of best selling granular repellents that keeps moles out of lawns.
E60 BTSP4 Bio-tone Starter Plus 4-3-3Proven to enhance all aspects of plant growth. All natural and organic.
F42 500329Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer 7-4-5Allow plants to feed vigorously while producing abundant high quality vegetable and fruit development.
J25 JBB24 Protech Tool Supply Bulb PlanterGreat for creating the perfect hole to plant new bulbs.
S70 160101Miracle-Gro Water-Soluble All Purpose Plant Food - 24-8-16All-purpose plant food filled with important growth nutrients also perfect for the plants brushing off the winter dormant period and ready for new growth.
S70 75652300Miracle-Gro Potting MixStarting with a great potting soil is necessary for successful plant growth.