What’s your history with the company?
For the past 17 years, Larry Wyzgala and I have owned The Emerald Leaf, a wholesale supplier of house plants. Two years ago, we needed to find a new location for the business and that’s when we learned that the owners of Front Range Gardens, a longtime customer of ours, were looking to sell. It’s been a good move for us because now we have one location to continue the wholesale houseplant business while venturing into the retail market with Front Range Gardens.
What are some of your best-selling products?
Our veggie sales have been huge so far. In fact, we grow our own starts and we’ve already gone through three rounds this year. Our hanging baskets are popular and selling very well. We carry a large selection of pond plants and that product line is strong and growing. Our houseplant sales and patio pots are taking off, driven in large part by the younger shoppers who tend to live in smaller spaces such as apartments and townhomes.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected business?
It’s still too early to say how our year will end up, but at the moment business is pretty good. Actually we’ve been busier this year than at the same point in the last two years. People are getting used to sending in their orders by email and picking them up on a curbside basis. It takes more time to fill these orders, but we’re making it work. We’re open for in-store sales, too, and are taking necessary precautions to keep both our employees and customers safe. We wipe down our counters, credit card machines, door handles, and other surfaces frequently. Our employees are required to wear masks and customers who come in the garden center are generally mindful of the safety protocols. About 80% of them have been wearing masks. We have a large outdoor area of plants, and that helps keep people spread out, too. So overall, we’ve adjusted as needed to keep selling our plants, and we’re pleased with the results.
What types of marketing do you use?
We use a combination of things and like to experiment some as well. Three times a year we place coupons in the big coupon mailers that most people in our area receive. We use Instagram, Facebook and our website (which is currently being redesigned), and every other week we email out an opt-in based newsletter. One of the best marketing values we use are bus stop billboards. It actually costs less to buy space at a bus top than to do our coupon mailer. Although it’s hard to track the return on the billboards, we like the steady visibility they provide. We also offer a reward program where customers collect points from their purchases, which can be applied as cash toward new purchases.
What value do you receive from CNGA?
For me, the information sharing that CNGA provides is very beneficial. Between the newsletters and the online magazine, the range of information is really good. I often read articles that make me want to try new things. When I was solely in the wholesale business, I got to know other wholesalers and had a good network there. Now that I’m operating Front Range Gardens, CNGA’s information and networking is helping me learn about the retail side of business and helping me connect with similar types of members.