What’s the history of Brown’s Greenhouse?
The original owner was Don Brown, who started the business in 1984. I had been in the construction business as a homebuilder and when the recession of 2008-09 hit, I decided I wanted to be in a business that was a little more recession proof and stable. When the chance came to buy the business from Don in 2010, I took a good look at it and saw some promising possibilities. It turned out to be a good decision – we’ve had consistent and steady growth every year since.
What are your primary markets?
We are a wholesale supplier that specializes in annuals, perennials and vegetables, along with seasonal mums and poinsettias. We take great pride in the wide selection we offer and the high quality of our plants. When we acquired the business 10 years ago, our primary market was independent garden centers (IGCs) in the Denver metro area. We still service those outlets but our biggest growth has come from mountain resort communities like Vail, Steamboat Springs and Aspen that have various custom order needs.
How are you meeting today’s growing demand?
Although the cost of expanding is very significant, we’ve been able to acquire some new property to add another acre of greenhouse space. Overall, with the expansion, we will have about nine acres of land and utilize about 240,000 square feet of greenhouse space for spring production. With the space addition and a strong effort on streamlining our operations, we’ve been able to increase our growing capacity by approximately 50%.
Another factor we’re addressing is the shrinking number of IGCs. Over the past 10 years, at least a dozen garden center stores have gone away in our area, with virtually no new IGCs opening. To maintain our market options and keep our customers in the IGC market, we’re going to open two new seasonal retail outlets this spring, in addition to the one we’ve had in Castle Rock for seven seasons. We try to carefully select areas we feel are under represented by IGCs so we won’t be competing against our existing customers. Starting in May, our new outlets will be open from May through June in Golden and south Denver.
What new growing approaches are you using?
We’ve been steadily increasing the number of plants we start vegetatively, with less growing from seeds. Because there are more vegetative plant varieties coming out from the breeders, and we want to keep our selection as current as possible for our customers, we’re following this trend in our growing operations. We also try to offer the best in quality and premium selection with our perennial program, many Plant Select® varieties and many amazing garden performers selected from bare-root farms from all over the world.
What other industry projects do you support?
We’re very proud of a couple of our grow contracts that help to contribute to our industry and community. For the past four seasons, we’ve grown all the vegetables (approximately 30,000 vegetable starts) for Denver Urban Gardens’ Grow-A-Garden program and assist them in their fundraising efforts throughout the year. This year for the first time, we provided all the plant material for the Colorado Home & Garden Show. The show is run by the Colorado Garden Foundation, which put over $700,000 into scholarships slated for students in the green industry. Also in 2020, we’re partnering with CSU to help with some of their trial garden needs.
What value do you receive from CNGA?
I feel like the Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association (CNGA) is really the backbone of our industry. It’s an association that looks out for members like us. We appreciate all the networking opportunities and how we can stay connected with other members to see what they are doing. We enjoy the BBQs, the industry news and the all-around support CNGA provides to the members.