O’Toole’s Garden Centers
1404 Quail Street
Lakewood, CO 80215
Interview with Kerry Young, General Manager; Patrick O’Toole, Head of Marketing and Logistics; and Adele O’Toole, Owner
What is the history of O’Toole’s?
In 1979 Jim O’Toole was working as a salesman for Colorado Growers Supply. One of his customers ran a small garden center at Colfax and Quail Street and Jim kept advising the owner to develop an adjacent empty lot. Finally, the owner suggested that Jim rent the lot, which he did, and started a bare root tree nursery. He sold out all of his stock the first Spring and when the owner asked Jim if he wanted to buy the property, he said yes – on a handshake, no contract or paperwork. The operation continued to grow, Jim met Adele and they got married, they opened a few temporary stores in local malls, and 43 years later O’Toole’s has grown into a very successful, three store business in the Denver metro area.
What do you attribute your success and longevity to?
We feel that our customer service is one of the key factors. We constantly receive very positive feedback about our customer service, and that keeps customers coming back. We offer a very good selection of plants and we have a wonderful staff of outgoing and energetic employees.
What is it like to operate three stores in Lakewood, Littleton and Westminster?
At times it can be tricky. We strive to give customers a similar experience among the stores and to make our brand consistent. But each store does have its own culture that can add different experiences. One good advantage is that we can order in larger quantities which provides better pricing and volume discounts.
What are your bread-and-butter products?
Our number one seller is our color products – annuals, baskets and pots. Another strong sales component for us is our private label line of branded products called Colorado’s Choice. In this line we sell a variety of soil related products including organic soil supplements, WaterSaver organic fertilizer, compost and potting mixes.
What are some challenges you are experiencing?
Finding the labor we need is a rather consistent problem but we are taking steps to become more efficient so that the labor pool we do have meets our needs. We are moving to more automation, using point of sales systems, improving our receiving and inventory processes and really focusing on leaner ways to doing the things we’ve always been doing that haven’t been that efficient. We’ve invested in more upper management staff which gives us new perspectives and fresh energy to find better ways to operate.
What trends are you seeing from your customers?
We’re still seeing strong sales in our veggie and herb plants. Our customers are also becoming more aware, and seeking native and xeric type plants, as they shift to less water intensive landscapes. They are also becoming more interested in lawn alternatives. And we’re seeing more interest in our organic lines.
Why did you become a CNGA member?
As we have added more uppper management people, we are looking for resources that can help us move forward with our plans and answer our questions. We are interested, for example, in the online Colorado Certified Nursery Professional classes. We also want to be part of a community and tap into the comradery that CNGA offers throughout the year.