2012 Revolutionary 100 Garden Center: Bemis Farms Nursery

Owner: Edward Bemis

City/Town: Spencer, Mass.

Company Website: BemisFarmsNursery.com

Size: Retail–4 acres

Sales Range: Less Than 999,999

Years In Business: 65

Number Of Locations: 1

Tell us how you use social media to better serve your customers.

Facebook has been a fantastic tool to reach our most interested customers. We use Facebook to involve our customers, not to pitch a product or promotion. We have a little over 900 fans, and it is not unusual to get 15-20 or more likes/comments on a post. I think 40 comments was our top. Our fans are great at posting pictures of what they have done at their homes with our plants or workshop projects, too.

Tell us how you work with other local businesses on customer outreach.

We cross promote with several other complementary businesses by giving their little gifts in our swag bags for some of our workshops. We also promote several other local businesses on some in-store publications. So far this has been a little bit of a one way street, but we figure our collective success is all tied together.

What makes your garden center Revolutionary?

This is very difficult to answer this year. I feel that the meaning of the word Revolutionary is very dynamic. When we first completed the survey in its first or second year, Revolutionary meant taking on a new bold project, promotion or presentation.

In some ways being Revolutionary in 2011 means being in business in 2012. At least in the Northeast, even maintaining level sales is met with awe from fellow garden center owners. Five years ago I never thought that I would feel a sense of accomplishment by keeping sales level with the previous year.
I don’t mean to sound like I am whining or complaining at all. It is just a different world. We have continued to adapt to the new economic realities. I guess that is what makes us Revolutionary for 2012.

Here are some of the things we will NOT do:

  1. Cheapen our guarantee. We have an amazing guarantee. One without a time limit. One in which our goal is to be sure the customer is successful, for if they are not, the entire industry loses that customer, maybe forever. We are not going to compromise on that guarantee even as others are becoming more stringent.
  2. Sell cheaper materials. Cheap, inferior materials will only damage our long term position. Customers will come to hate gardening as they have more problems with inferior plants and products. We may sell smaller sizes to keep the price down. Or find a vendor who can supply it to us for less. But we will not sell cheaper crap just because it is cheaper.
  3. Abandon our customers. As woody plant sales continue to decline nationally, the customers who are still buying them need good solid guidance on what will work for them. They need advice on how to solve a problem if it should occur. We will continue to position ourselves as the expert to go to for that advice.

Is that good enough to be Revolutionary in 2012? I honestly don’t know. I do know that we plan on being one of the survivors. We continually think about what we can do as a garden center – and as an industry – to bring gardening/plants/exterior decorating to the fore of the public’s mind. We may never come up with the answer. But I know we will not stop trying.

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