During her keynote presentation at the Cleveland Society of Professional Journalists Conference in March, Dana Canedy said, “When you get comfortable, it’s time to shake things up.”

The award-winning journalist, author and administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes encouraged attendees to consider calculated, strategic challenges not as risks, but as the best pathways to new opportunities. Fear shouldn’t be a factor.

Her words resonated with me because we are shaking things up at GIE Media, the family-owned company that publishes Garden Center. I will be joining the company’s cannabis team to help oversee two magazines in that space – Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary – and the rapidly growing Cannabis Conference. I am excited to learn more about this emerging area of horticulture, and to meet cultivators and retailers who are also passionate about what they do and about the benefits this plant can offer to customers.

I am also thrilled to announce that Kate Spirgen will be moving from her role as managing editor of the established and well-respected sister publication Lawn & Landscape to lead Garden Center. When Kate first started working at GIE in 2012, she was a part of the Garden Center team, and is looking forward to meeting you and covering this market once again. Matt McClellan, managing editor of sister publication Nursery Management, will also be joining the team, along with Giovanni Castelli, associate editor, who has re-energized our social media channels. You’ll be in great hands.

They will also be in great hands with you. Independent garden center retailers I’ve had the privilege of meeting and knowing have graciously shared their time, stories and best strategies with me. Garden Center’s tagline is “Serving leading independent garden center retailers in North America,” and that has been possible because of your willingness to tell us about your businesses, what’s worked and what hasn’t. I’ve learned so much from you. It’s easy to love this industry because of the plants, but the best aspect by far is the people. It brought me comfort, but we never got comfortable.

From left: Michelle Simakis, Kate Spirgen, Matt McClellan, Giovanni Castelli

Our goal has been and always will be to continue challenging the status quo and to share ideas to help you be prosperous.

I don’t think many people who lead garden centers, no matter how long they’ve been in the industry, are “comfortable,” either. Customer expectations and retail best practices are evolving rapidly, and garden centers are constantly innovating, changing and modifying their companies to adapt. I’ve been in awe of and humbled by this since I started seven years ago, and it’s also inspired us to keep changing how we present stories and what we cover at Garden Center magazine. We’ve reached out to you for suggestions, which have led to new initiatives such as the daily email newsletter, and an educational conference, the Garden Center Executive Summit.

I will continue to contribute to the direction of the magazine and assist with the 2020 Executive Summit. I’ll still be just a phone call or email away. But I take comfort in knowing that as I change roles, having new leadership and a new perspective on Garden Center will spark fresh ideas and stories. I look forward to seeing the innovation, creativity and beauty that comes from shaking things up.

Michelle Simaki