GCA 2013 Summer Tour Heads to the Heart of the Garden Center Belt - Ohio
Even more best practices, emerging trends, proven strategies than ever before - this year’s GCA Summer Tour heads to not one but four major metropolitan areas in Ohio, giving IGC retailers the unprecedented opportunity to see first-hand what puts the host garden centers at the top of their markets. The guided bus tour will visit a full roster of garden centers in Cleveland, Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus for a behind-the-scenes look at the best practices that drive their profits.
The tour, open to retailer GCA members and non-members alike, kicks off with a reception Sunday evening at the Sheraton Cleveland Airport, where attendees will have the opportunity to network and enjoy dinner.
After a restful night at the Sheraton Cleveland Airport, Monday’s schedule includes visits to Cleveland’s leading garden centers, followed by a special dinner at Green Circle Growers. We will make our way down to Columbus after the early dinner and check into the Hilton Easton Columbus.
On Tuesday, the tour highlights garden center standouts in Dayton and Cincinnati, and on Wednesday, Columbus’ best stores are the focus. After the tour wraps Wednesday afternoon, attendees will have the choice of departing from Columbus or taking a complimentary bus back to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
SUNDAY, JUNE 23
Opening Reception & Dinner – Sheraton Cleveland Airport Hotel
MONDAY, JUNE 24
Gale’s Westlake Garden Center, Westlake, OH
Serving its loyal customer base for more than 40 years, Gale’s Westlake Garden Center sells garden lifestyle. In addition to the diverse selection of plants featured at its 14-acre site, gardening enthusiasts find the latest birding and wildlife gardening products, Vermont Castings grills and a fully stocked garden library. Even with the seasonal nature of gardening in Ohio, the store draws steady traffic throughout the year, thanks in part to its fall and holiday season markets and monthly seminars. Gale’s Westlake Garden Center is part of the Gale’s Garden Centers/Donzell’s Flower and Garden Center group, which operates five stores in the Greater Cleveland area. The Westlake location is led by Pam Donzelli, daughter of founder Sam Donzelli. Fifty miles northwest, in Akron, Pam’s sister Julie Donzelli Difeo heads up Donzell’s. The sisters grew up in the garden center business, watering petunias alongside their parents. The Gale’s Garden Centers/Donzell’s Flower and Garden Center group ranks No. 21 in IGC Retailer’s IGC 100 report with $22.8 million in annual sales.
Willoway Nurseries, Avon, OH
Willoway Nurseries, family owned and operated for 60 years, is constantly seeking out new, more efficient ways to do business, like testing robots from Harvest Automation as a cost-effective method of moving plants in the greenhouse and nursery yard. It is one of the largest wholesale growers of nursery stock in the Midwest, with approximately 550 acres of field production, 450 acres of container stock and 6 acres of greenhouses. It supplies more than 2,000 plant varieties, including shade and ornamental trees, shrubs, evergreens, perennials and flowering annuals. It is the largest pot-in-pot grower in the Midwest, offering sizes from 3-gallon shrubs to 45-gallon trees. Nationally branded programs grown on-site include American Beauties, David Austin Roses, Drift Roses, Endless Summer, Knock Out Roses, Novalis - Plants That Work, Proven Winners, Raymond Evison and Star Roses. Willoway provides retailers with point-of-purchase materials, displays and customizable plant tags, as well as a searchable plant database for printing customer bench cards and reference materials. Lunch provided.
Petitti Garden Centers, Avon, OH
When brothers Angelo and Dominic Petitti started their landscaping business out of a garage 42 years ago, they had a vision, one of growth. That vision continues to drive Petitti Garden Centers’ success. Today, the leading independent, ranked No. 7 in IGC Retailer’s IGC 100 report with $45.1 million in sales, operates nine retail garden center locations in Ohio: Avon, Oakwood Village, Strongsville, Tallmadge, Boardman, Bainbridge, Mentor, Middleburg Heights and Richmond Heights. The Avon store, opened in 2007, covers 14 acres and features a 420-foot-long cathedral-style Thermoflor main avenue and a glass atrium facade. Petitti also operates two growing facilities that produce 98 percent of the live product sold at its stores: Agora Gardens, a 300-acre nursery in Madison, OH, and Casa Verde Growers, 32 acres of greenhouses in Columbia Station, OH. Angelo continues to lead the garden center business, which will eventually transition to son AJ and daughters Lisa and Andria as the second-generation leadership. Currently, AJ serves as Vice President, and Lisa is a buyer for home accents, Christmas, Vera Bradley and Trollbeads.
Casa Verde Growers, Columbia Station, OH
Get a behind-the-scenes look at one of Petitti’s two growing centers, Casa Verde Growers, a wholesale supplier of annuals, perennials and tropicals whose greenhouses span more than 895,000 square feet. During a special management-style workshop on-site, attendees will learn how Petitti green goods buyers and company management use their growing operation to “upscale” or “rescale” ordinary products. In this guided tour format, you will learn how the company uses color, plants and containers together to create items that can be sold for higher margins during every season. Casa Verde is a year-round operation that leads the entire growing process, beginning from cuttings and seeds, using the most efficient practices.
Green Circle Growers, Oberlin, OH
Green Circle Growers operates more than 100 acres of eco-friendly greenhouses, including a 20-acre production facility for phalaenopsis orchids. Last year, it produced 5.5 million 5-inch mini-orchids, and it is currently testing anthuriums and bonsai plants. As part of its green mission, water used by the plants is returned back to holding tanks, where it is filtered and used over and over again. Throughout the facility, high-efficiency energy curtains retain heat and reduce energy costs. In addition, the use of radiant heat cuts down on the use of natural gas by about 40 percent. The heat is produced by a wood boiler, fueled by refuse from local tree-removal companies. Transportation within the facility is also environmentally friendly: electric carts cut down on gas and diesel consumption and pollution. Green Circle contributes to the local economy as one of the community’s largest employers, with approximately 600 on staff. Dinner provided.
TUESDAY, JUNE 25
Berns Garden Center & Landscaping, Beavercreek, OH
Walk down paths overflowing with colorful annuals and perennials and among acres of trees and shrubs at Berns Garden Center & Landscaping. Opened just two years ago, the Beavercreek location is newest for the company, which introduced its first store 25 miles away in Middleton in 1996. This newest store is about 10,000 square feet and sits on 6 acres of land. There is ample room for its diverse collection of garden accessories, merchandised to tastefully complement the hundreds of plant varieties on display across the grounds. Berns was founded in 1956, when Al and Cherie Berns purchased a greenhouse and a home on an acre of land. Today, it continues to be owned and operated by the Berns family, employing 50 to 135 people seasonally. It has expanded over the years to include the garden center, landscaping, production greenhouses and a production nursery. When customers get hungry checking out all Berns has to offer, they buzz over to the Busy Bee Cafe on-site, where soups, sandwiches, coffee, tea and baked goods are served on the weekends.
Dorothy Lane Market, Springboro, OH
Dorothy Lane Market operates three gourmet stores stocking all the staples, with an emphasis on healthy and speciality foods. Each location features bakery, deli, meat, produce, seafood, floral, cheese and wine departments. The supermarket spotlights its own line of DLM-branded foods. Customers can indulge in Dorothy Lane Market’s signature Killer Brownie, weighing in at a third of a pound and available in 10 varieties, including Blonde Ambition and German Chocolate. Dorothy Lane Market was started in 1948 by Frank Sakada and Calvin Mayne as a fruit stand in South Dayton, OH. As a family owned business deeply rooted in its community, it prides itself on working with local farmers to provide customers with the freshest food. On the sales floor, all locally grown goods are marked “local” on the packaging. And the company’s support of its community doesn’t stop there. Through its Good Neighbor Program, Dorothy Lane Market has donated more than a million dollars to local non-profit organizations. Lunch provided.
Grandma’s Gardens, Waynesville, OH
Remember the fragrance of a fistful of fresh-picked lilacs from Grandma's garden? It’s that nostalgia of sweet memories in the garden that inspired the Rhinehart family to choose the name “Grandma's Gardens” for its retail operation back in 1979. Today, the garden center focuses on an old-time feel with its 1880s Victorian farmhouse, lovingly restored by Doug and Paulette Rhinehart and friends. Grandma’s House, as it is called now, features garden gifts and decor, including candles, Vera Bradley bags, home accents and more. Outdoors, visitors stroll 8 wooded acres on paved paths through idea-inspiring displays in greenhouses and shade-covered buildings filled with thousands of blooming plants. A 2008 purchase of the land adjacent to the garden center brought Grandma’s Gardens’ total acreage to 14. That expansion has been used for more display gardens, a pond plant and supplies department, more educational events and family activities and additional parking.
Delhi Flower & Garden Center, Liberty Township, OH
Delhi Flower and Garden Centers began serving the public as a year-round garden center in 1960, owned and operated by William Krueger and Robert Maddux. The garden center features approximately 42,000 square feet of glass greenhouse, which once served as a carnation growing facility. Today, the store continues to be owned and operated by the Maddux family, focusing on providing the highest quality plant material and service for its customers. The garden center is home to award-winning landscape designers, as well as creative home decor designers, who work with a wide variety of plant material, ranging from trees and shrubs to annuals and houseplants.
Natorp’s Nursery Outlet, Mason, OH
Natorp’s Nursery Outlet is a new selling concept introduced last fall. Located on 150 acres in Mason, it gives gardeners the chance to select from 1 million plants on the land where they’re grown. The operation’s 3-acre enclosed greenhouse allows shoppers access to the plant collection in all weather conditions. Visitors also get to see the working nursery, where more than 150 employees plant, maintain and grow 740 cultivars of annuals, 200 varieties of trees and 800 varieties of perennials and shrubs. Within the nursery, there is a landscape design center, a bulk landscape supply center and the company’s wholesale offices. Natorp’s caters to its Plant Lovers Club loyalty club customers with discounts, access to a horticulturist they can call with questions, spring and fall planting guides and exclusive shopping events. Natorp’s ranks No. 92 in IGC Retailer’s IGC 100 report with $6 million in annual sales.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26
Baker’s Acres Greenhouse, Alexandria, OH
Baker’s Acres, started by Nancy and Chris Baker more than 30 years ago, began with one greenhouse beside the couple’s old farmhouse in Alexandria, 20 miles northeast of Columbus. At the time, business was 95 percent wholesale, 5 percent retail; over the years, that percentage reversed, so that retail is now the emphasis. Since opening, Baker’s Acres has expanded to 15 greenhouses. The owners attribute their success, in part, to a humorous, light-hearted approach toward customer service that sets their garden center apart. The first statement on the homepage of their website says it all: “Here at Baker’s Acres, we love people, we love plants and we love to have fun.” The garden center’s self-proclaimed “plant nerds” even bring the fun into the bathroom. The store’s “Man Cave” restroom, complete with Mustache Wall O’ Fame, life-sized cutout of Han Solo and a collection of beer bottles lining the shelf near the ceiling, won the gold in Garden Centers of America’s Best Garden Center Bathroom Awards last year.
Wilson’s Garden Center, Newark, OH
At Wilson's Garden Center, the guesswork is taken out of gardening for customers of all skill levels. The IGC retailer uses its display gardens as a lab, of sorts, where new plant varieties are tested and trialed to determine what will grow best for its Central Ohio customers. The display gardens double as outdoor classrooms, where most plants are labeled so customers can identify them in their mature or near-mature state. In its 28 greenhouses, Wilson’s has thousands of plants to choose from, including annuals, perennials, herbs, roses, vegetables, trees, shrubs and more. If there is a project that needs an expert’s touch, Wilson’s offers gardening and landscaping services. Customers can join the Great Gardener’s Club and enjoy a variety of benefits, discounts and special invitation-only events. The business is currently led by the second generation of Wilsons, and employs up to 60 people throughout the busy season.
Scotts Miracle-Gro Corporate Headquarters
A Proper Garden, Delaware, OH
When A Proper Garden opened more than a decade ago, its first customers could tell it was unlike any other garden center from the moment they walked in the door. The philosophy is simple - this IGC sees the garden as an accent to the home rather than a botanical collection. This basic approach to selling is what keeps thousands of customers coming back season after season. Experienced gardeners come in to “talk the talk” and exchange knowledge with experts. Novices take to the retailer’s unintimidating environment, and begin to learn just how easy great gardens can be when they have a little help in creating the plan that best fits their lifestyle. Filled with blooming annuals and perennials, hardy trees and shrubs, unique pottery and other garden accessories, Wilson’s customers can select from a wide palette of colorful options to create their dream garden.
Oakland Nurseries, Dublin, OH
It’s not hard to see why Oakland Nurseries was voted Best Garden Center by Columbus Monthly in 2012. In its quest to become a complete horticultural hotspot, this IGC retailer provides services like landscape design and construction, irrigation installation, wholesale services and interiorscape design and installation. The interiorscape division brings plants indoors to transform homes and businesses, while Oakland’s streetscape division helps customers break up dull areas of concrete with colorful annuals and tropicals planted in containers or raised beds. For green goods, Oakland taps its sister business, Acorn Farms, which operates growing sites that total 800 acres over four towns, producing thousands of plants for customers throughout the Midwest. The retailer’s newest division, Oakland Pottery, spotlights imported home decor ceramics. Oakland ranks No. 19 in IGC Retailer’s IGC 100 report with $23.8 million in sales from its four location.