would Charlotte support another garden center

blueangel(7b)March 8, 2007


Toying with the Idea of opening another garden center

do you think Charlotte would/could support another

garden center?

Looking for some input.


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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

OK, blueangel, since you asked..
what I personally would support and pay higher prices for is a garden center that offered unusual plant varieties.

Farmer J's in Pineville I relied upon for the unusual. Unfortunately, they killed themselves with carryover inventory costs of tropicals and gifty type items.
That's probably the biggest factor, after big box competition to kill small garden centers, the cost of 'the gift shop goods' and staying open year round.

You can't be all things to everybody/every customer. To live and more than just survive you have to now find a niche market not in competition with WalMart,Lowes/Home Depot and Grower's Outlet.
Buying plants from the same outlets at the big boxes will do you in. You can't match their margins and still pay the water bill.
Furrs (in Matthews/Monroe Rd) did a fine job but they sold out at the right time. That area is changing demographics and the addition of a WalMart supercenter nearby would have done in Furrs had they not sold to Colchester Place.

Pikes is new here in So. Charlotte and I don't think they're going to survive. When they had full visibility from Johnston Rd last year they got traffic. This year that visibility is gone due to construction on frontage lots. They also are devoting a great deal of property to shrubs and trees/yard ornaments,fountains etc and all on a paved area.
Paved area plant displays need more water and literally cook your plants. They won't last at this site.

I like Youngs down on 521/Lancaster Hwy but what I don't like is the bulk of their plants are displayed under cover.
You can't just go home and plant them in full sun without suffering some leaf scorch. Undercover means less watering..less operating cost but the cost of erecting the cover and purchase/install of fans and heaters takes many years to pay back in increased early sales.

WalMart in UC impacts Kings..but Kings is reliable for better quality/knowledgeable staff and broad selection of perennials for real gardeners.

I miss Farmer J's a great deal. Unusual shrubs and trees, Zone 8-10 plants for annual application, seed packet selections from unique companies, strong starter veggie plants.
They struggled in a word of mouth location but the arrival of Grower's Outlet on So. Blvd in Pineville did them in.

Question to you is..where does your research indicate a solid untapped location? Can you find a reasonably priced location with excellent access and traffic? What would be your niche..what do you bring to the market that the market can't easily find nearby?
Are you looking to do a completely new startup business or buy out an existing one?
Would buying into an existing garden center and working there ..perhaps adding an 'unusual plants' section fit your plans?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 12:01PM
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Thank you Dottie for your input
I did own a nursery for more then twenty years before
moving to Charlotte,I have resources for unusual and rare
plants and am focusing more on container plants and those
suited for the urban gardens this would be a more upscale
specailty nursery and that is the input I am looking for,
would you and others be willing to pay a higher price for
a plant that is harder to find then those mega stores carry
let them fight it out on those plants.
I am still doing research into the location and the demagraphics and the market spending habits etc.
Again thanks for your input


    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 7:57AM
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I don't live in Charlotte. I live outside Raleigh and I was surprised to hear a speaker (from Charlotte) at our local arboretum state at the begining of his lecture that Raleigh has more to offer by way of extraordinary plant growers and nurseries. I had no idea.

One thing I have noticed around here - the businesses that are located on the main roads or inner city try to be the source for new and unusual plants but they always become a garden-y gift shop stocked with Monrovia and other typical stuff (and Monrovia offers out of the norm plants, I see them in their ads but not on the shelves). The only places to get the truly out-of-the-norm is out in the country away from the major highways. I don't know how those places generate enough traffic. But if you want to buy weird it always seems to involve a road trip.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 10:09AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Buy Weird..I like that.
Urban gardening in Charlotte has several really good centers to choose from. It's outside Charlotte in the distant suburban areas where we have little beyond the ordinary centers to shop at.
I've always driven miles to get to Banner Nursery on Monroe.
Norwood is pretty good over on Albemarle Rd.
Renfrow Hardware always has a few goodies and they do all their own plants from seed.
Roundtree has good healthy plants but pretty common stuff.
Royal Gardens on 7th, a little hole in the wall but neighborhood supported.
Southern Styles..healthy plants and shrubs just surviving and now surrounded by development. Land value is way above what they're taking in in plant sales. Rea across from the shopping center on the corner of Rea/Colony.
Ross Farms. Nice gals. Their site is also surrounded now by development. On Community House across from the new Ardrey Kell High School.
Youngs on 521 just over the SC line. Wide varieties of fairly common bedding annuals and perennials.
Kings in Stallings/Matthews an old fashioned garden center. I'm liking them better every year.
Garden Secrets moved last year. This is their first spring in the new location across from SouthPark Mall(across Morrison Blvd from Dillards). No land for much but some shrubs. In their old location on Park South, they offered just everything and really educated gardening advice.
Now, the mall area site is mostly indoors and a real disappointment.
That's what happens when the land value explodes under a garden center.
Maybe, like John said, that's why we have to travel to find the weird and the wonderful uncommon plants.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 11:00AM
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Everytime we are in Charlotte we go to a nursery near Metrolina. I have forgotten the name but have found wonderful plants there.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 11:38AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Turtle Creek?

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 7:02PM
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No, I need to look for one of their flyers I have somewhere. It is on a side street off of Statesville Rd.
They have booths at the Metrolina Antiques show. That is where we heard about them.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 8:18PM
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rad7(7, NC)

lsst, are you talking about Oakdale Greenhouse

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 9:03PM
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that sounds right. I need to check to see if I can find that flyer. It is straight across from one of the main roads to Metrolina. The owners live in a small yellow house on the grounds.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 10:40PM
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most of the nurseries listed above are alright
have been to most I do like Banner even though
the selection is not that unusual or rare
I have been a plant collector for a little
over thirty years and a nursery owner and what
I consider unusual or rare I guess is not the
same for most.With a resource of 1500 verieties
of pelargoniums at hand would someone be willing
to pay as much as $40 for a plant?
This is the type of nursery I am opening,
so would I get the support for this type of plant


    Bookmark   March 11, 2007 at 10:35AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Well, you might have to have a special area for specialty and expensive plants.
Wayside,for instance, always seems to offer oddities and quite expensive but not always do they survive the packing and shipping process.
The opportunity to buy this kind of plant locally from someone you can return to for advice really appeals to me.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2007 at 2:22PM
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You could also look up the info on company websites that list their top sellers and calculate the costs associated with the buying publics preferences -which would give you an idea on what the limits are to garden spending. I know that Plant Delights nursery here in Raleigh posts their top sellers each year (www.plantdelights.com) and you could check to see how many $40 perennials were on that list or what the average price was per plant. I know they sometimes have single plants in the $150 to $200 range, but they have stuff that no one else has.

When I first moved here, I worked there part time and I was amazed at what the public would drive across the state to buy. The bulk of the shoppers didn't seem too interested in the super rare, they were picking up normal stuff available at any big box retailer. I was also amazed at the number of garden clubs or eccentric gardeners that made a special trip to Raleigh just to shop during one of PDN's open houses. I met people that chartered planes and flew in from Seattle and Cleveland and even shoppers from Europe!!

So yes, gardeners will spend money on plants, but whether enough of them in your area will is another question. You may have to look into mail order which seems to keep most ooh-la-la plant business' afloat.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2007 at 5:27PM
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To add to John's good advice; if you're going to have high-end collector plants, with a higher price, you need to be prepared to offer a good chunk of your time in educating people and generating enthusiasm for your plants.

This could be an attractive and informative catalogue, and website, allowing plant-lovers to browse and educate themselves. Or, a lot of time spent speaking to garden groups and customers, and training a knowledgeable, enthusiastic staff. And, providing a wonderful display garden to inspire gardeners.

From what I hear ( I work at a great Triangle area nursery), Charlotte certainly has room for such a nursery. Two local resources to explore would be the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, and UNC-CH Botanic Garden. For DS, Doug Ruhren is creating stunning perennial borders, which will whet the appetite of Charlotte gardeners for new plants. UNC-CH has a great native garden.

Another resource is Winghaven; the garden of the late Elizabeth Clarkson. They have a lot of educational programs, and might help you connect with other gardeners to get a handle on the Charlotte area market.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2007 at 9:59PM
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John's mail order comment is spot on. I've observed that you either do mail order or regular and unusual annuals in spring. I work in a a nursery with 14 greenhouses full of perennials. We have three others which hold the annuals in early spring and overwinter roses and such in winter. We don't do mail order. We offer an unbelieveable amount of regular and unusual perennials all year long but our bread and butter seems to come from the sale of regular annuals in spring. We also supplement with seasonal sales of holiday plants. Adele

    Bookmark   March 11, 2007 at 10:41PM
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I have been in touch with Tony at PDN and have discussed this with him I do plan to carry common plants but with
more hard to find plants, education is also on my list I already
speak and lectures at garden centers and clubs
I am in touch with nursery owner around the country and the
world to select those plants I would like a place where gardeners come not only to buy plants but for educational
classes and workshops hands on approach to gardening and
hopefully spending time there to learn not just to buy.
I would like to have display gardens on site as well as
hands on gardens for adult and children.my goal is also
to have a good resource library on site so this is not
going to be you average garden center,Iam in the process
of going forward with a spring 2008 opening
Again thaks for the input


    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 2:34PM
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Tony and the other people like him out there doing this have taken up to 20 years to get where they are.

My main observation on them and their business' is that they don't follow the trends - they lead the trends. They do this by massive amounts of traveling/public speaking and book/magazine article writing. Constantly finding and refining new varieties; participating in activities associated with high-end plants and plant collectors; taking a lot of risks and shaking a lot of hands. It can happen. You can do it.

A while back Tony wrote an essay on why Heronswood closed down. It sorta profiled the nature of the gourmet plant industry and how things ebb and flow. I don't have it with me but if you can find it out there in cyberspace it would be beneficial reading.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 3:59PM
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inthegarden_k(z7 NC)

funny that you mentioned pelargoniums. i was just thinking that there aren't that many unusual ones available in this area. i visit charlotte pretty often, and would love a high end place like that. personally, i grow annuals from seed to save my dollars for things that i cannot get (some of the things i want i have failed at propagating, others i can't get a piece of). so i don't spend more than some of the people who through out their pelargoniums every year, and buy flats of marigolds, but i spend it differently.

for something like pellies though, i think you would need to offer mail order as well. i like getting small rooted cuttings of mums via mail order, and would do the same for other similar plants, again like pellies, if special varieties were available.

for education in the charlotte area i think people go to daniel stowe. i haven't been there yet, but i understand you can get a membership and attend functions that i assume include lectures. do you know what they offer, and could you offer something different? could you try that without a huge investment?

last year i was thinking about what unique christmas type items would appeal to gardeners. not gifts, but decoration. it seems to me that people go all out at christmas, and i have not seen a lot of williamsburg type floral/fruit/greenery decoration in this area. i mention that because you have to be different to be worth going out of the way to...especially when people are bent on doing lots of shopping and then they reach the end of the day and are just not willing to go to one more shop....unless its the only place that carries what they are looking for. it would be great to be able to buy the boards for those fruit arrangements with magnolia leaves and replace fruit as it went bad for example...some of us don't deal well with power tools :)

just some thoughts

    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 8:28PM
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I live in Charlotte. I've only been here a few months, but I have looked for good nurserys. The best one I've found so far was Rountree. I'm sure more must exist--but I was surprised when I moved here that there weren't more that were easy to find. Also--I would love to be able to buy things like mulching materials in winter if I feel like it. (impatient here)

Here's my thoughts on this--don't know if you are still checking these posts...

But I would love to go to a nursery with specialty plants--unusual herbs, bulbs, ANYTHING. I don't think I"m the world's best customer though cuz I'm always pinching my pennies--trying to find ways to get one plant to do several jobs, and I love to propagate my own. But I do buy some.

I was really disappointed with Lowes and homedepot. The staff doesn't know anything about gardening or plants for one thing and they only sell a very generic selection. I used to work retail and it amazed me that someone would not want to learn about what it is they are selling and be able to answer questions.

Expertise and unusual plants would be great-- added to it -- a garden to look at. I don't know Charlotte well enough to tell you if that would be successful--but I would like such a place.

I used to have a small 'backyard nursery' in Wisconsin. I sold plants via internet and mail. It was not 'lucrative' really but it was an enjoyable way to make some extra money and help finance my garden habit, and I could do it from my own home. I love to find a plant sale at someone's actual home. You can see the plants in their original setting and talk to someone who has grown them.

I think the personal touch is very important--but I am not sure about the money. Big box is hard to compete with.

In my former retail jobs I worked in 'niche' type stores that sold things the big box stores didn't have much of, or didn't delve very deeply into. The stores survived and made profits--but they were not making big profits, it would not have taken much to knock them totally out--and as employees we all knew that.

I would keep expenses low--if I were doing it--perhaps by keeping it small. Once you are hiring alot of people--you have responsibility to see to it they earn a living wage and have benefits etc.. then there are all the bills for utilities and etc.

It seems like Charlotte 'should' have more nurseries as I said, but dunno- there may be a reason they don't. mary

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 7:31AM
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hotroses(z7 Charlotte)

I have been following this post with interest. I am also new to Charlotte and was really dissapointed in the local nurseries. The garden art and selection of pots is great, but the plants are really boring. This is an amazing climate - I can't believe people are satisfied with impatiens, pansies and cushion mums. Speaking of mums - I was amazed at how people would shell out $25-$30 per plant, and buy 10 or 12 of them to decorate the front of thier homes this fall only to throw them away as soon as Thanksgiving was over. There is a lot of money out there that could probably be easily re-directed.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 8:53AM
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Maryt gardener yes I do still check this site and thank
you for your input Thank you all this is helpful in my
planning.I to have notice that there just dose not seem
to be that many nurseries here in Charlotte and those I
have found are not open on Sundays,I to am new to Charlotte
but owned a nursery in Oregon,I agree the plant selection
here dose not seem all that good in referance to my saying
$40 for a pelargonium dose not mean I would sell the plant
for that it was just to referance plant and price,but with
that said they would still be more then the average price
pelargonium.My thought are to bring verieties that you don't see in the garden centers for example clematis you can find the same ones at all nurseries I would sell those
verieties that you don't see etc etc.
please keep your thoughts and input comming


    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 9:17AM
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One other crucial point: make sure your plants are appropriate for our Southern climate. Oregon's growing conditions are very different from the Carolinas. To my mind, it's cheating gardeners when a plant looks good coming out of the nursery in spring, only to deteriorate in the hot, humid summer months. There are plenty of good sources of that information.

Do come up to the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area and check out the wealth of good gardens here for more inspiration!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 8:16PM
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I was thinking about the mum comment. I wonder--do they not survive here maybe?
One thing I have been doing since I moved here is reading everything I can on southern gardening. In the north I think--though the season was short --it was simpler. Here you can grow alot more-but--you have to grow it at the right time and in the right way. Alot of what I thought of as perenials are thought of as anuals here.

Which surprised me.

I feel as if I never gardened before I'm learning so much!


    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 9:27PM
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The mums we sell seasonally will come back if planted soon enough. I've planted plenty of throwaways in late fall and have only lost a few here and there. There are also some really gorgeous mums that are sold as perennials. Clara Curtis and Mary Stoker come to mind though I think I have a couple more than that just can't remember the names. Up north I had the cold and wet winters to contend with. Here its the dry, dry hot summers. Adele

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 9:48PM
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Tammy Kennedy

and there are lots of things that are grown as annuals up there that do fine as perenns here (like the mums and snaps). it's just different, that's all. any knowledge you learned in a cold clime is sort of turned on it's head around here. you get so much more growing time overall it's hard to bemoan the few things you can't grow because it's too hot. which is not to say i wouldn't kill for a nice patch of rhubarb- lol. :) tammy

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 10:01PM
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I would just like to nod in appreciation regarding nurseries not being open as much as I would like. I understand the difficulties of being open outside the usual work week, but it is occasionally frustrating. I frequently end up at a box store when I need something and all the nearby stores are closed, and some of the stores listed above I haven't visited yet because my options are limited to Saturdays and I haven't had enough free.*
So if you would like to open a nursery operating exclusively weeknights and weekends, I'm not sure it will last long but I will definitely visit. =)

*In the case of Rountree, it was my own fault for trying to find it as the last store of the day. Got lost in the northbound-lane-closing confusion, will have to try again.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 11:19PM
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hello to all!

It is certainly sad to see the industry taken over by the big box stores.
Dottie- so nice to hear you enjoyed Farmer J's! I am a former Farmer J girl! We were sad to close down, but it was a tough location for us. I still miss our kitty!
Blueangel- How are the plans to open a center going? Need a manager LOL!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 8:47AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Oooh Erin..you and Farmer J's are sorely missed. There I could find the unusual varieties and colors and the prices..I'd have paid more if it would have helped keep J's open.

If Blueangel wants to open a center I hope he will stock it with annual/perennial plants and not garden supplies and certainly not giftware. Stock the unusual trees (like J's did). Stock the zone 9 annuals..although I still have jacobinia(sp) that has come up every year for 6-7 years now that I originally bought at J's.
Finding the unusual trees is the hardest now that J's is gone. Garden Secrets used to be my other source but since they moved by SouthPark Mall, they have no room for trees.
They also had great roses and marvelous perennials.
Like J's, they cared what their clients desired in plants and they took good care of the plants for sale.

Looks like Banner on Monroe and 51 will be the next to go.
I see the zoning change sign up there now.

Me..I'm at that age now where I need someone knowledgeable to help me. Someone who cares that it's planted in the right location and planted properly in soil that's been properly prepared.
You don't need a degree in landscaping to be a skilled gardener, in fact the degreed 'landscapers' I've fired in the past 20 years..well it's disheartening how little they care for anything but an income. It's disturbing how much they rely on the computer for research and design.
Even more disturbing how the degreed guys aren't the planters. Sometimes they aren't even there to supervise.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 12:20PM
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I'm working in the landscape industry now and understand your frustration with it. Unfortunately we all have to do what we can to support ourselves- horticulture is not a well-paying profession.

If there were many people like you looking for skilled GARDENERS that would be a great niche for people like me- not so interested in the nellie stevens on each corner and ottos in the front foundation cookie cutter landscaping, but love love love to grow and care for diverse plants and landscapes, and just to talk shop!

Unfortunately that's not the way it's going. People want cheap, they want "curb appeal" so they can make 100k when they sell their house, they want to flip a switch to water, pick up a phone to have the lawn mowed and fertilized, and their shrubs prunued into nice tidy squares just like the neighbors. BLECH

    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 10:43AM
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Marketing idea for beginning gardeners?

Grouping plants with similar needs and good foliage and other color combinations is tricky for gardeners, especially newbies.

What if customers could come in and look through some pages of garden plans with a scheme already mapped out with plants available at the particular nursery they went to? Then they could hand the sheet to a nursery worker, state any preferences for color variety changes, and go home with a group of plants that should give them an easier time?

Like a book, but more available and spur-of-the-moment and particular to the garden center - you know, the way busy people actually shop??

    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 5:00PM
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I loved Laura B's idea about pre-planned gardens!
I am actually trying to design two planting islands for the front of my house, using deer resistant plants only.
I sure would love it if there was a garden center that stocked tons of deer resistant plants, and had planting suggestions also.
blueangel... did you open a store in Charlotte, and if so, where?
It sure is frustrating to have a list of plants you would like to buy, but no source for them other than the internet. I'll buy online if I have to, but would prefer to buy locally.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 1:29PM
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That's interesting.. all the posts from 2010 disappeared..

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 1:36PM
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How about a location somewhere on New Hope Rd near Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens? You'd get a lot of traffic from plant enthusiasts that are visiting the gardens and it is far enough away from the big box stores to avoid the competition.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 9:46AM
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so blue angel- what has come of your dream? Will we have another garden store? I am a pelargonium fan and have had challenges obtaining interesting varieties of pellies.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 2:27PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Well, Colchester Place (both locations) are gone and Banner (in Matthews) is gone.

Trouble is..both garden centers in each location had high visibility but suffered from heavy road traffic that made ingress and egress difficult much of the day. Colchester in the Park Rd. shopping center next to Black Lion was well located,great parking,easy to get in and out of
BUT..90 percent of their product was situated in full sun on a blacktop..elevated racks, costly surrounds with mulch always necessary around the tree and shrub pots..
After two years of drought, I can imagine the cost of water was a huge determining factor in the closing of many of these garden centers.
Property taxes is always another increasing cost annually.
In this economy, labor you can always find.
However, it would seem that the hardest part for a garden center is to resist trying to be a one-stop shop for all gardening needs,plant materials and otherwise. You just can't compete with the Grower's Outlet,WalMart,Lowes/HD types of retail.
I see Youngs trying to adapt to competition from the new Lowes. Next, they'll have the huge new WalMart to deal with.

Is the answer to revert to the small, specialty garden center on county property where the owner lives on-site?
Is this what thrives in mid-NC?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 10:52PM
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