Companies that go against the status quo and are successful fascinate me. In retail there are assumptions made that are considered untouchable if you want to be successful. In the garden center biz one assumption is that to capture the maximum number of shoppers you need to be open 7 days a week. If someone works all week then you have Saturday or Sunday to be open for them. If your closed they may very well head to the competition. A company I have watched before was highlighted today at gardencentermagazine.com Baker Creek Heirloom Seed is a Missouri company that specializes in hard to find heirloom seed. I first found out about this company from their fantastic seed catalog. According to their web page, "Jere Gettle always had a passion for growing things, and at age 3, he planted his first garden. Ever since that day, he wanted to be involved in the seed industry. So at the age of 17, he printed the first small Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog in 1998. The company has grown to offer 1,400 varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs—the largest selection of heirloom varieties in the U.S.A."
In 2009 they decided to open a seed store in, of all places Petaluma, California. They bought a 1920's bank building and started "The Seed Bank". Here in the heart of The Bay Area and uber-hipness the company brought in Amish workers in traditional clothing to renovate the building. The company wanted to create an old time feeling with their business. To really set the tone they did something that is out of ordinary in retail, yet wen't right along with their beliefs. They are closed on Saturday! They do it for religious reasons, so their is no questioning them about the loss of business they might experience because of this. It's just the way it is. Their hours of operation are M-F 9:30 to 5:30 pm closed Sat. and open Sunday's, 9:30 to 4:00.
You can do this if you have something that nobody else carries. They "offer over 1,200 varieties of heirloom seeds, garlic, tools, books, and hundreds of local hand-made gifts and food items. Remember—everything we offer is pure, natural, and non-GMO!" If you want to choose amongst the largest selection of non-GMO heirloom seed's in a retail store, this is it. You'll work around the Saturday closing. The moral of the story is, carry what people want in a way no one else is doing.
As the world continues to change faster than we can keep up, people enjoy looking back to the old day's when things seemed simpler. This new store touches all the right points. Old bank building, lots of seeds, no GMO, people who are passionate about what they do, give back to the community, and live a life devoted to something bigger than themselves. Something so big they close on the what is usually the busiest day in retail gardening. Does this make them happier? I would hope so.
Instead of getting burned out this year, what if you closed the store for a day during during the week? Even in spring? What if you cut your hours of operation? What if you reduced the size of the nursery to better highlight what you carry? What if you only carried products that you believed in? It's a interesting idea. Live closer to your own beliefs, yet still make the money needed to accomplish your goals? Is is possible? We will see.