Greenhouse Canada

Features Business Retail
The ‘Eising’ on the Cake


July 6, 2009
By Amanda Ryder


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This year, when customers made their annual spring outing to Eising Greenhouses & Garden Centre in Simcoe, Ont., they found the same quality plants, just in a brand-new setting. In the past year, the business has undergone a complete renovation to deliver customers a high-end retail experience. The changes have been well received to say the least!

This year, when customers made their annual spring outing to Eising Greenhouses & Garden Centre in Simcoe, Ont., they found the same quality plants, just in a brand-new setting. In the past year, the business has undergone a complete renovation to deliver customers a high-end retail experience. The changes have been well received to say the least!

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Eising Greenhouses & Garden Centre unveiled its new look at the beginning of the year. The picture to the right shows the operation before the makeover.

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Henry Eising is the owner of Eising Greenhouses & Garden Centre, an operation that’s been serving the community since 1966. His father, Henry Eising Sr. built the first greenhouse, selling hydroponic tomatoes, and over the years the business has evolved into a garden centre, now its main focus. Located on the outskirts of Simcoe, Eising Greenhouses & Garden Centre has become a plant staple and frequent stop for community residents as well as city-dwellers making the trip down to lakeside cottages.

The full-scale garden centre grows all of its own annuals and perennials and carries a selection of trees, shrubs, garden art, pottery, trellises, accessories and lots of hanging baskets, the centre’s specialty. “That’s a real strong point for us, hanging baskets. We can grow them big and beautiful because we don’t have worry about shipping them in a truck,” says Eising.

This year’s renovation has been the biggest change to the 100,000-square-foot business in its 33-year history. Henry and his wife Marjolein took over as owner of the garden centre from his father and mother four years ago and was eager to give the business a new look. Eising says he wanted the operation to evolve from a greenhouse that sells plants to a professional retailer that just happens to grow. “We want to be known as retailers and to fully operate and look that way,” he says.

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The centre provides shoppers with a selection of unique garden containers and accessories.
 
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Customers receive a warm greeting when they walk through the automatic doors.
 
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A display shows customers how to landscape their home.
 
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The centre’s specialty is their overflowing hanging baskets.  
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A kids
corner gives younger shoppers a place to play.
 
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Another look at the
colourful greenhouse.
 
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Displays at Eising Greenhouses & Garden Centre are changed up frequently to give customers a fresh shopping experience.


 

Eising put his plans into action last November and met with an architectural student to map out the new look. Work began in January and was finished in time for the spring season. The new garden centre now boasts a clean, Victorian looking façade, outfitted with peaked roofs, black railing awnings, turrets and big windows adorned with flower boxes. “I was looking at other garden centres – so many have done the post-and-beam-look to try and keep the greenhouse out of sight. We went with the Victorian look because we wanted something different and to step it up a notch and really make it look high-end retail.”

The garden centre’s entrance now gives customers the feeling that they could be walking into a contemporary home décor store. There no stacked pots or skids of soil bags in sight. The surface leading up the entrance is stamped, coloured concrete and modern looking and customers can enter and exit the garden centre with ease through automatic sliding doors. A bright display, signed “welcome to your happy place” is the first thing shoppers see when they walk inside. The retail floor has grown from 2,500 square feet to 7,000 square feet  and is filled with displays and vignettes of merchandised product.

When Eising developed the floor plans, he made sure to keep his shoppers in mind. “I really looked at garden centres all across North America, studying the layout and how to make things customer friendly. We laid it out in such a way that it’s got a fully heated floor in the store so that there’s no heating pipe obstruction for the customers to trip on or anything like that.” The floor is made from coloured concrete and can be easily painted to create a new look in the future. It’s also completely flat so the displays can be moved with little effort to give customers a fresh perspective. The kids corner is another addition to the business. As moms and dads shop, the children can sit in the kids corner, watch cartoons, colour or practise their digging skills in the sandbox. The area is also home to the garden club for kids, held once a month, where the kids come to learn how to paint pots and plant flowers.

The garden centre unveiled the new look at the end of March and celebrated with its 100 top customers at a wine and cheese event. The following day, over 600 shoppers made their way to the ribbon cutting ceremony. “The customer response has been pretty unbelievable,” says Eising.

The spring season has been busy with both new and regular customers stopping by to see the changes and stocking up on garden supplies. Eising’s is closed on Sundays but is open from 8 am until 8 pm from April until mid-June, Monday through to Saturday. As a result, Saturdays are steady, with many shoppers ringing in purchases right up until closing time. Monday is also a popular shopping day, especially with seniors.

To serve all these customers, 40 employees are on hand during the peak season and the centre employs seven full-time staff members year round. For the past two years, Eising has sent five of his employees to the American Nursery and Landscape Association’s (ANLA) annual management clinic in the spring to learn about merchandising and how to run a garden centre. The garden centre is a member of ANLA and Eising is currently enrolled in the organization’s Garden Centre University (GCU) and will graduate next year. As part of this program, he travels to the U.S. twice a year to attend three days of seminars. “We tour five of the best garden centres in the area and we go over everything there is to know about managing a garden centre and being a garden centre manager – fiscal, advertising, merchandising and retailing. We compare all of our numbers and it’s all open book. We each have benchmarks that we strive for,” says Eising. He’s built a network with his fellow GCU students and often talks with them about any questions that arise regarding the business. Eising cites this as both a big help and inspiration when it came to planning out the new store.

Around the garden centre, customers recognize not only the owner’s face, but also his voice. Most of the operation’s advertising is done on local radio stations and Eising both writes and voices his own ads. “We’ve really shifted to radio advertising in the last couple years and it seems to be pretty effective,” says Eising. “I try to keep it fun and whimsical as much as possible without getting too corny.” He promotes the garden centre’s slogan – home grown quality since 1966 – and shies away from mentioning pricing, instead focusing on branding the business so when people thing of gardening, Eising’s automatically comes to mind. The business also advertises in local newspapers and has their own website, www.eising.ca and most recently, a Facebook page.

Because they are so deeply rooted in the community, the environment is top of mind at Eising’s and the garden centre has made changes to operate in the green. The greenhouses are all heated with a waste wood, a system that the garden centre actually installed on their own. “The heating system’s really helped out because we are burning waste wood instead of natural gas so it’s kept our heating prices down,” says Eising. In addition, the business has gone to biological control with all of it’s insects, collects and recirculates its irrigation water and recycles used customer pots.

When asked about his future plans, Eising says the garden centre hopes to offer its customers workshops and expand on its online presence. It’s this focus on growing quality both internally and externally that will keep customers stopping by Eising Greenhouse & Garden Centre for years to come.

To see more pictures of the garden centre, visit our photo gallery.


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