There’s no one right way to become a great garden center. Some excellent garden retailers focus on one or two things and do them really well. Others diversify and become really good in a number of different areas. The Good Earth Garden Center became the 2012 Revolutionary 100 National Winner by selecting the second route. And then some.
The Good Earth Garden Center’s owners, Gregg and Julie Curtis, have built their business on a wide base. That comes in handy in a down economy. When some areas of the operation struggle, others still have enough steam to pick up the slack. And having a presence in so many departments often uncovers opportunities that may not have been there before.
Here are just a few of the different areas The Good Earth has expanded into. The diversification strategy is certainly not the right one for every garden center – but some of these may make sense to explore with your own garden center.
The Curtises added additional sales space by purchasing a neighboring garden center last year. One emphasis with the new space has been adding an area for fresh produce. And the success of the category has gone beyond simply adding a profitable new category – it’s also offered some great promotional opportunities.
“We go through the produce daily and cull, and then donate the culled produce to the Little Rock Zoo,” Gregg says. “The zoo did a photo promotion of the animals enjoying the produce and sent us the images, which we put on Facebook.”
“Local” is a popular quality for consumers and retailers alike these days, and it’s been a big winner for The Good Earth too. “We buy as much local produce as possible. We have added a local artist venue at the garden center. We have an area for local jams, jellies, honey, jewelry, glassware and pottery. We also work with an award-winning local catering company to provide fresh meals and an award-winning bread company to provide fresh bread daily for our customers to purchase,” Gregg says.
And supporting local doesn’t just mean products and vendors. The Good Earth also has ties to an important part of the community – The Clinton Library. “We are proud to maintain the Clinton Library’s green roof, which we also helped install,” he says.
If you’ve been to Arkansas, you know that mosquitoes are a constant problem on summer evenings when you’d like to be outside, entertaining friends in the back yard. The Good Earth has capitalized on this problem by adding a mosquito control service.
“We are also proud to offer a mosquito misting system called Mosquito-X and have become a Mosquito Nix authorized dealer,” Gregg says. Curtis offers two versions of the service. “We can come out and spray the property before an event for two weeks. We can also supply misting systems around the house or pool that start and stop at a predetermined time so everything is clear before a dinner party, for example.
“We use an organic product and even with the economy being tight, we’re closing 80% of our sales when we get in front of somebody.” It’s its own profit center,” he says.
Landscape, Maintenance, Irrigation
The Good Earth has invested heavily in service departments. “We offer the most services of any landscape company or garden center in the state,” Gregg says.
In addition to the Mosquito business and its landscape services, the business recently added a lawn chemical division. “It’s for customers who want to do the mowing and trimming, but would like professional help with weeds and fertilizing. And our irrigation division has undergone a makeover. Our specialist is now called The Good Earth Wet Tech, and specializes in efficient water usage, both retrofitting old systems and installing new sprinkler systems.”
Gregg is also something of an inventor. “We have designed, manufactured and marketed a patented plant hanger, the Olde World Hanging Garden. It has been chosen as one of P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home products and is marketed on his website. He’s also made appearances in our store.”