Successful Operator Profile: A Place to Plant and Play

September 28, 2010
Written by Marlene Opdecam
Do an Internet search on Wilson’s Greenhouse & Garden Centre in Saskatoon, Sask., and you will get a wide variety of hits . . . not all of them industry related.

Why? Because Wilson’s Greenhouse & Garden Centre brings an entirely new concept to the city, possibly the country at large.

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“It’s more than just beautiful plants and garden accessories,” says Steve Wilson, co-owner with brother Colin. “It’s a destination centre where you can bring the whole family and spend the day.”

Home-grown Saskatoon boys, the co-owners were brought up in a gardening family and have been around greenhouses their entire lives. The brothers showed signs of green thumbs at an early age and started their first company as teenagers. Each brings over 25 years of greenhouse experience and continues to remain actively involved in all aspects of the companies.

Steve and Colin opened Wilson’s Greenhouse and Garden Centre in 2002 and the brothers have added to the business since then, creating a place where people young and old can come to shop, play and relax.

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Wilson’s Entertainment Park encompasses a driving range, putting course, go-kart track and a Jump’n Slide. The driving range offers 50 well-spaced tee boxes with eight professionally manicured target greens and night lighting. The range is open daily, advance bookings are not necessary and it features a licensed clubhouse offering great eats, cool treats and thirst quenchers.

Visitors can also have some fun on Wilson’s newly renovated 18-hole mini putt, which, Wilson says, is not your typical course. It incorporates hill, sand trap and water features and can test the skill of even a seasoned golfer.

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For those with a need for speed, Velocity Raceway offers something for almost all ages. In karts capable of going 85 km/h, drivers of all levels can experience the thrill of traversing a half-mile track full of twists and turns and straight-aways. Junior karts are available for younger racers, so they too can enjoy the excitement of the track.

“Our company is so unique because we consider it a destination centre,” says Wilson. “There is something for everyone. While mom is shopping for plants, the kids could be bouncing on the Jump’n Slide while dad hits a bucket of balls.”

Although the park is certainly novel, the greenhouse and garden centre operation remains the main attraction.

The company’s target market is men and women ages 25 to 60 years. The garden centre’s location, minutes from numerous new communities, attracts everyone from new couples starting out to families in their 40s and 50s who are upgrading their dream homes.

 

At a Glance:

Company Name:

Wilson’s Greenhouse
& Garden Centre
Location: Saskatoon, Sask.
Owner: Steve & Colin  Wilson
Years in Operation: 8
Website: www.wilsonsgreenhouse.ca


“In addition we have established a great relationship with many contractors in Saskatoon who use us exclusively for all their landscaping needs,” Wilson says.

Employing about 50 full- and eight part-time employees during peak season, Wilson’s boasts over 65,000 square feet of retail space, a 90,000-square-foot tree and shrub yard and a five-acre bulk landscaping supply centre.

Employees, says Wilson, undergo a three-week, comprehensive training program. They are cross-trained in all departments as well as shown numerous videos that cover such topics as customer service and up-selling.

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The enterprise is known for strong plants, rich colours and lush foliage that is “grown at home,” he adds. “We always have a dazzling selection of cactus, succulents and tropicals guaranteed to provide an explosion of creativity indoors and out.”

Wilson’s plethora of quality plants, of course, is only one facet of the company’s overall operation. It specializes in all yard products with the largest selection of decorative and landscape rock in the province. New to the roster this year are black lava, salt and pepper granite and green jade. Sod, bricks, fencing, decking and bulk landscape supplies are also part of Wilson’s inventory.

“We have everything to complete your landscape job from start to finish, whether it is for residential or commercial,” Wilson says.

And then there is the store itself. “We make a point to make the best possible store displays that we can. We have special hexagonal shelving that helps our product stand out.” Signage is also an integral part of store displays, which include a great selection of pottery in fun, rich colours.

“We have a spectacular selection of unique products that we search high and low for,” Wilson commented. “A great deal of time is put into sourcing our suppliers and finding the absolute best products for our customers. We purchase products from all over the world.”

Every year at the end of November, Wilson’s hosts a weekend craft sale composed of unique booths, gourmet food and more.

The event features live reindeer, free sleigh rides, Balloon Fun with Warren and, of course, Santa.

A new feature, Inspiration Gardens, will be opening soon. The inspirational plots are themed gardens Wilson’s is custom building into their landscaping. Each of these gardens will feature a theme that is designed to help inspire shoppers and help them turn their backyards into a personal getaway. Examples include a xeriscape garden, rose garden, water garden, alpine garden and Asian-themed garden to name a few. Each will have a diagram with a complete list of all plants featured to enable the customer to replicate the theme at home. These packages will also include additional savings for the customer.

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Feedback confirms customers are appreciative of everything the enterprise has to offer from entertainment and product to service and special events. “We are pleased to receive such positive feedback from our customers,” Wilson says. “They especially love how they can get everything they need at one store while their kids are enjoying the Entertainment Park.”

The company’s website attracts a lot of business, he adds. “It appears we get a large amount of website traffic from people who are interested in landscaping supplies, information and ideas.” The site keeps browsers up to date on events and activities at Wilson’s year round and provides access to the company’s entire inventory.

Most of Wilson’s marketing dollars are invested in quarterly mail-outs to Reward Members as well as mass flyer mail-outs to targeted areas. Money is also spent ensuring the popular website is always up –to date. In the spring and fall, the company launches major radio campaigns.

Wilson’s Greenhouse & Garden Centre has been the recipient of two notable awards the ANLA (American Nursery and Landscape Association) Rising Star Award and the SABEX Award. The Saskatoon Achievement and Business Excellence (SABEX) awards recognize businesses that “exemplify performance excellence and quality achievement” in designated categories, according to the website. Wilson’s has been nominated for five such awards in the past few years and was a finalist in the growth and expansion category in 2004/2005.

About the Companies
 
Wilson’s Group of Companies is a Saskatoon-based assemblage holding four seasonal corporations and two businesses in the recreational service industry. The companies are introduced by maturity.
 
  • Custom Lawn Care Ltd.
    Custom Lawn Care began in 1985 to provide a full range of lawn care services to hundreds of commercial and residential customers in Saskatoon and its surrounding area.

  • Garden Select
    Garden Select was established in May 1996 serving at both Early’s Farm & Garden Centre locations on Lorne Avenue and 51st Street. Each location is convenient and provides quality plants to customers in a small greenhouse atmosphere.

  • Wilson’s Greenhouse & Garden Centre Ltd.
    Wilson’s Greenhouse & Garden Centre’s first season began May 2002. Wilson’s Greenhouse is the group’s largest company—over three million people came through the front door last year! In 2009, they celebrated the seventh year in business with a visually stunning and more organized store.

  • Custom Snow Removal
    Custom Snow Removal was established in 1999 as a snow removal business serving commercial businesses.

  • Wilson’s Entertainment Park
    Wilson’s Entertainment Park includes at this time the Driving Range, Putting Course and Velocity Raceway.  The owners plan on expanding the facilities and adding more family fun.

  • Wilson’s Driving Range & Putting Course Ltd.
    Wilson’s Driving Range first opened in May 2003.  The Putting Course was added in August 2005.

  • Velocity Raceway Ltd.
    Velocity Raceway opened its doors in July 2006. It has almost literally taken off and has become a popular late night and weekend event full of regulars and new patrons of all ages. Adult and junior Sodi® karts are imported from France and do possess the ability to “fly” over 150 kilometres per hour (although they have this feature toned down!)

  • Wilson’s Westside
    Wilson’s Westside opened in 2009. This new venture brought the sale of trees/shrubs, bulk landscaping supplies and tool rental to the west side of town.

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