Over the decades, Willow Ridge Garden Center and Landscaping in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, has become a hub for water features in the area. That’s something Greg Steele, retail manager, credits to a previous part-time owner who delved into water gardening upon his arrival.
Over time, the garden center transitioned from offering water plants and fish to including ponds, waterfalls and fountains in its landscaping services.
As a certified Aquascape distributor, dealer and installer, Steele says the garden center mainly offers that brand, and always has the latest technology from the company. Each year, they also send their crew to Pondemonium, Aquascape’s yearly water garden training and networking event in Chicago, Illinois. There, attendees learn new ways of pondscaping and selling equipment.
While Willow Ridges’ sales are largely made up of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, Steele says the water feature transactions are “pretty close.” He also says part of their marketing strategy is product placement.
“We have 10 water features on site,” Steele says. “When you come to our store, the entryway on either side has a water feature. In front of our [first] cabin building, we have four water features. And then, around the rest of the property, there are several fountainscapes, water features and displays.”
When it comes to educating customers about the eco-friendliness of water features, Steele says having a crew well-versed in their advantages helps a great deal.
“We have a knowledgeable staff and anytime somebody asks questions, we have somebody there that can answer any question someone may have about aquatic life that lives in and around ponds,” he says. “We inform ourselves so that we can inform our customers.”
For garden centers that aspire to offer water features or that are already doing so, Steele says the key to great sales and great service is being knowledgeable.
“You need to learn your products and the best way to do that is by using the resources available. … That way, your staff will be able to inform the customer because most homeowners that are getting into water gardening don’t know a whole lot about it,” Steele says. “That’s where we come in.”