Bruce and his wife, Trudy, run Cedar Rim Nursery, a popular garden centre and nursery in Langley, B.C. It is a family business, started in 1978 by Bruce and his parents as a hobby and a means of summer employment. He and Trudy, whose parents also owned a popular Langley garden centre, bought out both of their parents in 1987 and have since run the garden centre and nursery. Over the years, it’s become a much larger operation – a one-stop shop – where landscapers and gardeners are treated to between 6,000 and 8,000 varieties of rare specimen trees, perennials, shrubs and annuals, and such complementary products as specialized fertilizers, soils, pots, insecticides and fungicides.
|Cedar Rim Nursery, of Langley, B.C., is a one-stop shop where landscapers and gardeners are treated to between 6,000 and 8,000 varieties of rare specimen trees, perennials, shrubs and annuals, and such complementary products as specialized fertilizers, soils, pots, insecticides and fungicides.
Ten of the site’s 30 acres are devoted to retail sales. The nursery operation comprises about 20,000 square feet of heated greenhouses for annuals and about two acres of coldframes plus another eight acres for outdoor material. The wholesale operation involves some 100 acres in total.
As “Purveyers of Unique Horticultural Specimens,” Cedar Rim is known for its wide selection of products, and for going to great lengths to meet requests from customers by sourcing plants and trees from its own nursery and rare items from across Canada and the United States. It grows about 70 per cent of what it sells, and, because the business has access to a huge inventory of plants, it can get them to customers right away. What it does not stock, it can find in short order. A customer can landscape a yard in about a week.
Ironically, despite its wide selection of plants, Bruce marvels that he occasionally feels as if they don’t to have anything people want. Armed with Internet knowledge, which is not always pertinent or accurate, Cedar Rim’s increasingly tech-savvy customers often come to the centre with obscure requests.
Staff are interested in building relationships. “We know our customers have made a concerted effort to come to us; it is not convenience that brings them in, so we have to offer them something special,” says Christina Charles, the centre’s manager in charge of perennials, annuals and hard goods. “Our customer service goes beyond polite greetings and helpful garden advice: we tend to develop relationships with our customers, knowing many of them by name and focusing on their specific plant interests and needs.” This genuine interest, she suggests, keeps customers coming back and recommending the garden centre to their friends.
To offer something extra to these regular customers, the centre initiated a loyalty program a few years ago. It offers customers incentives, such as weekly discounts, sneak previews of new items and advance notice of sales. “We had this large customer base, and felt we were in danger of losing some to big-box stores or other competitors simply because the market has become more saturated and pricing extremely competitive,” says Charles. The Garden Club now has about 3,000 members it reaches via twice yearly mailouts, and weekly or biweekly e-mails. It has proven to be Cedar Rim’s most effective and least expensive advertising tool.
Staff is kept hopping with gardeners of all ages during the centre’s peak season from March to mid-August, when Cedar Rim employs about 50 people, many of them full time, during that busy period. When business is slower, the centre maintains 12 to 14 employees. The company pays a little more than the going rate to hold on to quality workers.
| “Our brand has become our incredible plant selection, artful displays and great customer service,” says Christina Charles, Cedar Rim’s manager in charge of perennials, annuals and hard goods. “We tend to develop relationships with our customers, knowing many of them by name and focusing on their specific plant interests and needs.
When time is short and staff are busy, great signage sometimes picks up the slack. “Signs are your silent salesmen,” remarks Bruce. They provide concise information about species traits and requirements that serves both customers and staff. “Colour laser printouts are a must,” he continues, and the affordability of colour printing these days makes it easier to offer attractive signage. Staff create the signs, posterboards and labels in house through the Horticopia online customization program, which gives them more control and consistency in the brand they present to customers. They use laser-printed UPC labels and codes, but expect to switch to radio-frequency identification, or RFID, eventually.
| Cedar Rim carries a line of garden fountains, among them classic wall fountains, oriental-style water pots and whimsical wooden water barrels, and offers an extensive line of pond necessities and accessories.
‘A lot of fun’
When asked about plans for the future, Bruce says he would like to offer more workshops and events. His overall goal is to keep running a healthy business, serving customers, and mostly having a lot of fun.
|When time is short and staff are busy,
great signage picks up the slack, by serving as the centre’s “silent
salesmen,” providing concise information about species traits and
Cedar Rim has been cited several times by the local newspaper, The Langley Advance, as Best of the Best in the nursery category, but, although it is nice to be recognized, Bruce says that’s not what motivates him. “You’re in business to make a profit and to take care of your people.
“Do what you like, and if you like what you do, you’re generally going to be successful.”
| At a Glance:
Company Name: Cedar Rim Nursery
Location: Langley, B.C.
Owner: Russ and Trudy Bruce
Years in Operation: 32