Plants don’t sell themselves. Great products still need a little push and a lot of creative merchandising. “The marketing side is every bit as important as the growing side,” says Edwin Jewell, owner of Jewell’s Country Market in Marshfield, Prince Edward Island. “We are all retail here. Nothing is wholesale.”
Jewell launched his market garden business with a roadside stand in 1998. The following year, he built a 5,600-square-foot building and added a dairy bar, gift shop and produce section. The next year he ventured into the greenhouse business with a 20' x 48' temporary structure. “It did very well,” he explains, “so I built two greenhouses and brought in plants.”
|Edwin Jewell checks plants in one of the
|A view of the new greenhouses.
Photo courtesy Jewell Country Market
|Maggie Johnston begins work on a bench; left, Edwin Jewell looks over a Luna hibiscus.
Photo by Kathy Birt
Jewell grew up in the greenhouse business. His parents, Parker and Irene, ran a successful greenhouse operation for 25 years. “I can remember watering plants and spending a lot of time around the greenhouse.”
Jewell started out vegetable farming with his brothers, Dale and Erwin, and spent a lot of time handling the retailing duties. He eventually bought the market operation from his brothers, and sold most of his share in the farm property.
Good service means steady sales. Veteran horticulturist Maggie Johnston typifies the garden centre’s commitment to service. She enjoys helping shoppers select the best plants for what they want to achieve, advises where best to plant them, and suggests what they’ll require to thrive throughout the season.
She says gardeners are always looking for new varieties, and especially so when it comes to herbs. “Customers seem to be looking for new trends with herbs, such as echinacea. We have several different varieties, including a double daisy-type,” says Johnston.
The trend towards eating healthier is boosting the popularity of herbs. “People like to add to their herb garden every year.” Herbs that may become invasive require special care. “I tell customers to plant them in an open-bottomed container. That way, the roots are in the soil but the plant is contained.”
Other popular perennial lines include hostas and phlox. During my mid-July visit, the perennials were pretty much sold out.
Visitors are not just drawn by the great array of plants. Jewell’s Country Market is home to the province’s first goat walk. It also features an ice cream stand featuring 40 flavours. This is truly a destination garden centre.
Having a diversified product line means there is something for everyone. “To go from having no greenhouse space six or seven years ago, to having 20,000 square feet of combined space on the farm and here at the market, and being able to sell virtually every bit of it, means we must be doing some things right,” Jewell quips.
Temporary garden centres set up by big box stores, he says, can’t match the service of an independent garden centre or market garden. “We have people who know what they are doing and we guarantee our plants.”
Customers don’t get quizzed if they bring a plant back that died. “We replace it. We know our customers are not going to intentionally kill a plant. We might have only a handful of plants come back in a whole season.”
Customers appreciate clean and uncluttered aisles, and the wider the better. “They don’t want to walk into an untidy greenhouse. They don’t want to step over a puddle or around a garden hose.”
Conferences are great educational opportunities. “You can grow until the cows come home, but if you don’t know how to market the business will never succeed. Customers today have tons of choices. If I’m going to be successful, I have to work at it at every opportunity.”
Success in any operation, he emphasizes, is a team effort. “All the staff here play an important role in the business.”
Those efforts are paying off. Jewell’s Country Market continues to enjoy considerable success. “The fact that our business is consistently growing means we’ll be around next year.”