Keep your options open.

Keeping you options open is a good idea for the small garden center. What you thought you would be about when you started may not be what you are about now. This story from the Macon Telegraph on Green leaf Nursery illustrates that. This family run nursery was “opened… on April 9, 1994, concentrating on growing and selling bedding plants and perennials.” The nursery “has consumed their time ‘from dark to dark’ ever since, said Nancy Lawrence, co-owner.

When husband Ray Lawrence bought $500 in statuary with only $300 in the till he took a chance. “I'm independent," he said, grinning. “I'm a renegade." Apparently the decision was a good one as they quickly sold those pieces and ordered several thousands of dollars more.

Here is where they realized that in their particular niche they needed to take “the business away from growing so many plants” and concentrate “on sales of garden ornaments and statues.” Even better “Ray soon became dissatisfied with the quality of purchased statuary, and he began studying all facets of production. In 1997, he bought his first molds and began pouring and finishing his own statuary - some of it his own designs. Now he owns more than 1,000 molds.”

They have even started custom work. According to The Telegraph, “They pour and install tiered fountains all over Middle Georgia. Their largest fountain bowl weighs 1,160 pounds. ‘Last year, we installed a fountain every eight days,’ he said.”

This nursery has the same concerns most of us have. According to The Telegraph, “Big box stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot have made the garden center business tough for local owners, and several in this area have gone out of business in recent years. And fewer young people are as interested in gardening as their parents were.”

This is an interesting take from Ray Lawrence, “nostalgia brings some people to gardening, when their mothers die,” he said. “They'll come in and say 'My mother raised this flower, or that flower, and I want to plant some in memory of her.'"

He is a great example of looking at the surrounding business climate, changing assumptions about what your garden center is about and going for it. Sometimes our stubbornness at running our businesses they way we think they are suppose be run blinds us to the opportunities that are available elsewhere.