Start that small garden center today!

The time is ripe for the small garden center. The mood is unmistakable. People are looking for the unique experience. Weather its cooking, traveling, or gardening people want to try new things. I don’t know about you but I cringe when I see another power mall going in with the prerequisite Borders, Sports Authority, Home Depot, and Baby Gap. The power mall in Folsom looks just like any other mall in the U.S. Sure I patronize some of these places but they don’t inspire me.

Embrace eccentricity! The fun nurseries are always the ones that are a bit eccentric. Generally the smaller stores have the ability to express their “difference better.” The larger independents and the box stores are generally very predictable with out much excitement going on. Running a successful small garden center means having to step put of the current trends and quit being so predictable. Now I am not saying you should open the doors to the shop at any old time of the day. Certain practices should be predictable, but the experience of discovery at the garden center should not be.

I tried to think of some of the ways that we are different than most other garden centers. Our name ‘Golden Gecko’ comes to mind. We wanted a name that was unique and had nothing to do with gardening or us! Our former nursery “Happy Frog” is another example.

We have been arranging our plants in a “theatrical’ manner for the past 13 years. We dropped alpha numeric rowing of plants then and never looked back. Grouping the plants in “vignettes” by color, shape, and smells was quite novel then and unfortunately still is.

Every plant is labeled with Latin names. The sign for a group of plants may not have the Latin name but every plant comes with it. We believe that as more and more garden centers drop the use of Latin names the use of Latin will become more exotic and therefore more interesting to gardeners who care and want to learn about plants. We want to be that source of information.

I am into playing music, jazz and classical mostly. It’s in the background and never obtrusive but helps to set the scene that we are creating. It amazes me how many garden centers don’t use the sound of music to help mask the noise from the road.

We use our mailing list and the internet as our main sources of advertisement. We try not to use mass media much as we have found our best chance of reaching people is through those who have signed up to receive information from us. The internet also focuses our message to those who have an interest already in what we are offering.

We use water a lot! We have two water falls and quite a number of smaller water tub pots, in addition to our creek. The sound of water is a help in masking the sounds coming from the street as well as setting a relaxing mood.

Have Fun! It is sometimes the hardest thing to do when one looks at the bills coming in but is critical to your health and success. Monica and I constantly remind ourselves that if we are not having fun then the customer won’t. The “feel” of a store is directly related to the moods of the people who run it. We have been through some amazing hardships in running our businesses and have had periods where the fun was really lacking. You know what? The sales showed it. It’s not easy but “letting go” and trusting our instincts while trying to keep a playful attitude has been a great benefit.