Erin, can you tell us the story of Minter Country Garden, from the beginning to the present day?
Brian Minter began sharing his passion for plants with Fraser Valley gardeners when, in 1972, he and his wife Faye purchased Country Garden, a garden shop that had been part of Chilliwack’s community since 1957. In 1994, after 35 years on the original Hope River Road property, the Minters moved the business to a much more accommodating 18 acres on Young Road, where it was expanded to become a destination garden store! Today, in addition to approximately 1 acre of covered customer shopping area, we have 2 acres of outdoor retail nursery, 15 greenhouses and a farming field we use for growing small crops of specialty items. We are also home to a café, a tea boutique and two vintage/antique shops, all of which are separately owned and operated.
Between the garden center, the retail nursery, the floral design area and the café and specialty boutiques, which one better reacted to the challenges presented by the Covid pandemic?
The retail garden center was able to adapt most quickly. We were very fortunate to have a Shopify site in place before the pandemic descended so, when we closed, we were able to switch to an online platform for ‘Parking Lot Pick-Up’ quite quickly. We couldn’t put the whole store on the site, of course, but the most essential items were quickly added, such as soils, vegetable starters, colourful seasonal plants etc. and it was all very well received. Once we were able to open again, we did take the online shopping/Parking Lot Pick Up option away as we could not keep up with both online and in-store customers (or team volume had reduced by about 30% due to Covid, and had not returned by that point). We have remained open to the public since late April 2020.
What do you expect for the 2022 season? And what future do you think gardening has in Canada?
One thing we have learned is that, while the demand for food security was high during the pandemic, the demand for colour was higher. People wanted happiness from their gardens and turned to them for comfort during a challenging time. Many folks who had not gardened before picked up the hobby during the shut downs, and those who had dabbled in gardening got much more involved in it. Growth in gardening has therefor been considerable in 2020-2021, but the expectation is that this will level off in 2022. Home gardening will remain strong, but the considerable growth over the last 18 months is not likely to be sustained.
This testimonial will be seen by many colleagues, many of them from Europe but also from the US, Mexico and other areas; I know you are active as a speaker at events and webinars, is there an insight or recommendations you would like to share here?
With the incredible growth of online sales, particularly with Amazon and others, there is a strong need for positive lifestyle experiences. The pandemic has revealed the importance of creating more beauty and comfort around one’s living space. There is also a strong Millennial drive to move closer to nature and to be more environmentally friendly. Having new, high-quality and exciting plants, and their accessories, displayed in a beautiful environment will continue to draw in more consumers looking for a great lifestyle experience.
When was the decision of remodeling your garden center taken? How did you discover Orlandelli and get in touch with us?
For many years our plant product was displayed on wooden tables supported with bricks, but they were becoming worn, allowed water to pass through which would collect on our floors and did not make the best use of space. We had also reached a point where we wanted to freshen-up our appearance to a more European feel. Lisa met Orlandelli team members at Cultivate in 2019, and came back with images and details of their ebb and flow system, and we felt this was the best solution for our needs.
What impressed you the most in the layout we prepared for you?
The open, airy layout, the additional space for customers to travel around and the alcoves to create ‘themed’ sales areas. Though our plant sales area (square footage) decreased slightly, our floor space increased greatly, which allows customers to spend more time looking around and shopping. This was also a fortuitous design for 2020, as we needed 6’ between customers at any given time!
How has your workflow changed now with the ebb and flow tables and other fixtures you bought from Orlandelli?
We have not been able to use the system to its full advantage yet, but we have already seen time savings in being able to water the table from below, when we did not have time to water plants individually. The vertical layout (with the standing tables) has added great aesthetic to our departments, and we’ve been able to incorporate other store product into plant displays too.
One more question, are you pleased with the final result? How have your clients reacted to the new looks of the garden center?
Absolutely! Team members and customers alike loved the new tables from the moment we put them in. They are clean, tidy, attractive, allow us to display product efficiently and they added a fresh, new feel to our store. We will be looking to add more in the future!