How did the company get started?
The owner of the original farm was Trudy Fike and she was the executive assistant of Martin Hart, a successful businessman. Together they decided to convert the property into a nursery in 1979. To get the nursery started, Martin hired on four key people: Larry Watson, Cindy Thorgren (Trudy’s daughter), Ann Carson, and Tony Urschitz (now co-owner of Chelsea Nursery in Clifton, Colo.).
How has LVWN sustained success over the years?
We owe much of our success to the foundation that Martin laid. His focus was on the business aspects, primarily making sure we knew what all of our costs were. He helped us make smart decisions, based more on dollars than just our love of growing plants. At the beginning, he lured a former bank CFO out of retirement to set up our accounting system, and in the mid-‘80s, we developed custom computer software that gives us the kind of cost and inventory information we need to sustain profitability.
How has this year started off compared to last year?
Last year we suffered significant plant losses due to a damaging hailstorm that decimated our trees. We’ve had a very challenging spring to restock our normal tree inventory to about 14,000. But this year has been particularly strong – we had the best May sales in our company’s history, and as of June 1, we had already sold 4,300 trees. The combination of strong, post-pandemic homeowner demand plus new and ongoing commercial projects has kept our sales very strong and happening much earlier this year.
What trends are impacting your sales?
During the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing on this year, we are seeing strong sales in fruit trees and woody fruiting plants like raspberries. We’re also seeing a stronger demand for larger caliper trees, particularly in the 3” to 3½” size. Plants that are more xeric adapted and use less water have shown an uptick in sales, too.
What practices help you with sustainability?
We’re big on recycling our plastic pots. In fact, we pay our customers to return their #1 and #5 pots so we can reuse them. It has really cut down on our plastic purchases.
Has the shortage of freight trucks been problematic?
For incoming shipments, yes – it has caused delays in receiving some of our orders. For out-bound shipments to our customers, we utilize our own small fleet of delivery trucks, which has been particularly valuable this year. Our shipping system is computerized and we set order deadlines for our customers so they can receive shipments on specified days. Our shipping is also very efficient because our computer programs provide loading profiles for each truck. This maximizes the number of plants a truck can carry, which also maximizes the number of customer drops.
How does CNGA contribute to the company’s success?
We appreciate the support CNGA gives its members in many ways. The education that we receive through CNGA is particularly valuable to our employees. Many have gone through the CCNP certification process and that is very useful education for nursery workers. Our employees like to attend the sessions at ProGreen EXPO every year, which helps broaden their knowledge and increases their value to our company.