Around noon, I took advantage of the great Sunday weather and went on a quick trip to three northeastern Ohio garden centers: Eagle Creek, Breezewood and Lowe's Greenhouses. Eagle Creek and Lowe's are on our 2009 Revolutionary 100 list. All of them were on the same road (route 306), and they were all within a couple of miles from each other. Isn't that convenient?
Eagle Creek's parking lot was dappled with cars. Not much going on, yet (remember? lake effect). It's a beautiful place with huge, airy greenhouses. With the small traffic, I was surprised I wasn't hounded by the staff. It was actually the complete opposite. I didn't get one, "Hi, can I help?" (The same goes for Breezewood. What's up with that?) Maybe my Neptune's Harvest t-shirt gave off the false impression that I'm a green thumb.
Private labels are growing in popularity, and Eagle Creek does a great job reinforcing their brand with huge banners, promoting their house brand of plants. The banners read "Buying with confidence has an official name." They also had a home-front vignette in one of their greenhouses that does an excellent job showing how easy it is to dress up the front of a house.
A mile or so north, Breezewood Garden & Gifts is a good deal smaller, at least in greenhouse space. As seen in the pic, not much hustle and bustle there, either. It's clear here that an emphasis is placed on gifts. I've always heard they do an excellent and profitable job in that department. They offer a small selection of outdoor apparel: Columbia, Merrell, The North Face, Ugg... I didn't find too much in my size. Is managing an apparel section a pain? Too bad one-size-fits-all doesn't really work, like Snuggies.
My last stop was at Lowe's Greenhouse. Unlike the first two, this place was packed. Two overflow lots were used and filled for parking. Kids everywhere, thanks to an Easter Egg Hunt and a visit by the Easter Bunny. I like Lowe's. It reminds me a little more of my work at Gali's. It's not huge and fancy and perfect. It has character and a smiling staff...and a really low entry into one of their greenhouses.
In the picture below, I think it's a hot water pipe that spans the top of the entrance into Lowe's Rainforest House. I didn't see a caution sign, and the clearance is around 5'10". I'm sure it hasn't met a forehead it didn't like. For older garden centers, how do you overcome/improve obstacles like that without making huge changes?