Revolutionary 100 Garden Centers: 2011 Midwest Region

Midwest Regional Winner:
Knupper Nursery & Landscape
Palatine, Ill.
 
Knupper Nursery & Landscape has been on the Revolutionary 100 list every year since we created it in 2006. That’s a testament to a group of people who are never standing still and always willing to learn and change. They also have a strong focus on the processes that ensure they stay profitable, even in downturns like the current one. In other words, they pay close attention to the details. “We are recording and analyzing payroll on a weekly basis with a customized spreadsheet program that tracks payroll as a percentage of sales,” says general manager Chris Sieff. “This enables us to react and adjust instantly to fluctuations in weekly sales. Employees who are qualified and who have been cross-trained to work in multiple departments help us to achieve our reduced payroll goals.” By reacting with staffing and even changes in store hours, the operation can reduce energy consumption, operating costs and payroll costs. It results in a tighter, leaner business ready for anything. 
Alsip Home & Nursery
Frankfort, Ill./St. John, Ind.
This two-location operation opened a satellite location for peak spring. It was a success, and they are looking at two more for 2011. An interesting note, too: They asked customers for their location preferences on Facebook for instant feedback.
America’s Best Flowers
Cottage Grove, Wis.
America’s Best owners Ed and Carol Knapton are adding a landscape design department in 2011, including snapshot gardening, at-home consultations and complete landscape design, all at various pricing levels. 
Bachman’s Minneapolis, Minn. With 250 employees, training is key. The program includes 16 hours of classroom work covering orientation, Bachman’s Customer Service Basics, register training and basic product knowledge. They also are developing 100-plus computer-based training programs for product knowledge certifications.
Berns Garden Center
Middletown, Ohio
The Berns mantra for 2010? “We refuse to participate in any recession,” says retail manager Barry Christian. Plans are in place to open a second garden center about 25 miles away this spring. 
Bloch’s Farm
Green Lake, Wis.
This year the 150-acre rural business has gone “farm chic” with the help of Monrovia visual merchandiser Aaron Shriver. He spent three weeks at the farm developing the “farm chic” style for garden centers. But Bloch’s is the original, and they’ve hired more people to build props and sets to “really rock it.” 
Cerny’s Greenhouse
Tomahawk, Wis.
This small but profitable grower-retailer does a large volume for its size in custom container plantings. “Customers know they can bring in their empty pots during spring,” says owner William Cerny. “Our designers will guide their selection.”
Chalet Landscape, Nursery & Garden Center
Wilmette, Ill.
Chalet positions its 183-acre growing facility as Chalet Farm, “tucked away in a quiet corner of Southern Wisconsin.” They tout soils enriched with organic material and how the plants are trucked down to the garden center in Chalet’s Green Fleet Trucks. Plants are branded “Chalet Grown.”
Dayton Nursery
Norton, Ohio
Dayton Nursery takes advantage of its independent status by eliminating vendors with a strong box presence, and increasing inventory on “new and unusual” categories of plants. “We are beginning new greenhouse construction to customize our inventory of annuals in spring,” says Office Manager Amy Calhoun. 
Down To Earth
Eau Claire, Wis.
The Down To Earth name suits this operation to a T with a strong focus on recycled, reused and sustainable materials, as well as earth-friendly gardening. “Down To Earth has a style that is like none other in the area,” says Co-owner Sandi Polzin. “We have a huge following and the community is drawn to this simple shopping experience.”
East River Nursery
Huron, S.D.
This grower-retailer does landscape design and install. They came up with a creative way to solve availability issues for a major product line – they asked to become a distributor. “We are purchasing these products for close to 40 percent less than we were from our original distributor,” says Co-owner Julie Hoffmann. 
Ferguson’s Garden Center
Spirit Lake, Iowa
The folks at Ferguson’s are 2010 graduates of Ian Baldwin’s Garden Center University program and have focused greater attention on training employees and sharing numbers to benchmark with other retailers.
Flowerland
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Flowerland specializes in plant solutions and fertilizers. To educate customers, the garden center is tied into a weekly radio show covering Western Michigan. They use the website and social media for more education.
Graf Growers, Garden Center
& Farm Market

Akron, Ohio
They added an April promotion called “Home Opener.” Landscape designers offered a 30-minute snapshot design consultation for free. A kid-focused craft and make-and-take herb pot project kept children happy while parents received their consultation.
Grandma’s Gardens
Waynesville, Ohio
This year, Grandma’s Gardens increased quantities and variety of items like annuals and perennials and pottery and fountains. They are known for an excellent selection in categories like pottery, fountains and water features, as well as custom installation.
Greenscape Gardens
Manchester, Mo.
Greenscape partnered with a vendor to host a farmer’s market on-site to drive traffic and attract new customers during slow months. Locally grown produce is available daily with more products on Saturday. 
Green View Companies
Dunlap, Ill.
In a unique partnership, Green View worked with local real estate agents to offer them a customer appreciation day. Realtor Days includes a special discount offer to their clients only.
Hillermann Nursery & Florist
Washington, Mo.
This garden center offers a wide range of unique services, including lawn and garden equipment sales and service, grave digging and maintenance and snow removal. All contribute as profit centers. 
Hoerr Nursery
Peoria, Ill.
Hoerr Nursery is all about treating employees well. Along with reimbursement for education, merit raises and a 401(k) match program, they have regular employee luncheons and potlucks, as well as catered meals during the busiest days of the year. Written positive feedback from customers results in store credit, too. 
K&W Greenery
Janesville, Wis.
The garden center hosted Art In The Garden in March, where artists sold their work in the greenhouses. “It created a lot of traffic on an otherwise gloomy March day,” says Retail Manager Jordan Graffin. “We had fantastic sales, also. Our local media did all the advertising.”
La Crosse
Floral Co.

LaCrosse, Wis.
At this grower-retailer, the customer is king. That means selling the plants customers want, and continually listening to them to be able to serve them. “Decisions at La Crosse Floral are largely made from the bottom to the top – the bottom is our customer,” says President Linda Zoerb. “Our peers are important, but our customers are our paycheck.” 
Linton’s Enchanted Gardens
Elkhart, Ind.
Linton’s prides itself on being a destination, working closely with the Elkhart County Visitors Bureau to attract out-of-state visitors. It offers a petting zoo, Kids Korner, themed display gardens, group tours, a tourist information center and is 100 percent ADA accessible. 
Lowe’s Greenhouses
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Owner Jeff Griff has focused on tying his loyalty program with his eMail list to drive traffic. He offers in-store promotions that customers are only eligible for if they are on the eNewsletter list.
McCabe’s Greenhouse & Floral
Lawrenceburg, Ind.
This grower-retailer did extensive remodeling in 2010, modeling the entire nursery off multiple garden centers the staff had toured. “We went under major reconstruction to make it feel more like a walk through a garden, so that customer could picture it in their own yards,” says Retail Manager Beth Legge.
Natorp Garden Store
Mason, Ohio
The general manager for the two retail locations conducts an audit every two weeks during the peak season to ensure the stores are retail ready at all times. On another note, Porch Pot Parties have been developed to host a private container class for a maximum of 15 guests at a time. 
Pesche’s Garden Center
Des Plaines, Ill.
This seven-acre grower-retailer has been very successful with pottery sales in 2010, buying in a container, as well as pallets to change up the variety and selection. Pottery is currently the No. 3 category. 
Petitti
Garden Centers

Cleveland, Ohio
This operation purchased former Revolutionary 100 member Eagle Creek Garden Center, and announced it would open a ninth location on the east side of Cleveland in 2011. The focus in 2010 was on streamlining operating costs and labor. 
The Planter’s Palette
Winfield, Ill.
The management here focused on increasing the emphasis on telling a story about the products they sell, as well as creating outdoor rooms.
Pork & Plants
Altura, Minn.
After analyzing a complete year’s POS data, the owners found they were overproducing certain pot sizes. “We didn’t have enough detail on sell through,” says Co-owner Maria Kreidermacher. “Now we are able to plan production based on the POS data and reduce dump.” 
Rockwood Gardens
Onalaska, Wis.
As the owner of a 4-acre grower-retailer operation, Judy Rockwood has invested in energy conservation measures to run a more efficient operation. She’s increased the growing area to do more in-house, including growing plants in eco-friendly materials and educating customers on earth-friendly gardening.
Steve’s Ace Home & Garden
Dubuque, Iowa
Garden center employee Sara Carpenter hosts Garden Organic TV, which airs all over Iowa. It’s filmed weekly and educates kids and parents on the fun of gardening. It’s also available on the Dubuque Community Schools website.
Tangletown Gardens
Minneapolis, Minn.
In 2010, 320 people bought into Tangletown’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at between $300-$500 for 18 weeks of in-season produce. Customers pre-pay in the winter, then pick it up at the garden center.
Wagner Greenhouses
Minneapolis, Minn.
This grower-retailer creates simple videos for the season, including a holiday one featuring President Nola Wagner and posts them on YouTube, then embeds them onto their website, Wagners.biz. 
Wallace’s Garden Center
Bettendorf, Iowa
They worked at controlling labor and payroll by cross-training and keeping staff mobile within departments. “We also are very critical in determining pricing and sale prices so we don’t de-value our product,” says Manager Kate Terrell.
Wilson’s Garden Center
Newark, Ohio
The seven-acre grower-retailer built a brand new garden center. “It is an efficient, very visible and attractive structure with covered walkways in our outdoor sales areas and upgraded parking for 150 cars,” says Co-owner Ned Wilson. 
The Wreath Factory At Otter Creek
Plymouth, Wis.
They hold display contests for the staff to keep the store looking fresh while rewarding employees along the way. A new, consistent signage and bench card program helps customers who like to shop without asking for assistance.

 

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