As its name implies, orchids are a main attraction at Atlantic Avenue Orchid & Garden.
“We have a massive selection of premium orchids you can’t find anywhere else,” says owner Gary Prevost, who purchased the garden center last February when the previous owners retired. “We probably sell more orchids than anyone else in North Carolina.”
But the Raleigh-based garden center contains more than just orchids. It has grown into a full-service garden center with a multitude of plants, pots, statuary, soil, fertilizers, seminars and supplies.
Having other plants in stock means that Atlantic Avenue struggles with plant availability, like any garden center – particularly in “bread-and-butter” stock of trees and shrubs.
“Because of the economic downturn of 2008, a lot of growers slowed down their production. Now demand has outpaced supply so there’s a shortage of plants,” Prevost says. “To curb that, we took a seasoned veteran and made him a dedicated buyer, so he spends his days sourcing product for us, going as far as the West Coast.”
This position helps the garden center hone in on unique plants that set it apart, like a 25-year-old hinoki cypress recently received from Oregon. “It looks like a giant bonsai,” Prevost says. “It’s the only one in [our region], and customers come here to get that type of selection.”
To better inform product selection, Atlantic Avenue implemented an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system a couple of years ago. With robust reports and analytics, the software helps track and manage inventory levels based on popular and slow-moving products.
The most immediate change Prevost made after buying the business was creating a design-build function. Previously, Atlantic Avenue employed designers as salespeople, but designs and consultations were side-jobs they completed as independent contractors.
“Now we have two designers in-house who are dedicated to providing design services,” Prevost says. “There’s an obvious pull-through on plant sales and installation, so that’s going to help build plant maintenance services in the fall to increase the service side of the business.”
One of the designers is developing a master plan to make the garden center as scenic as a European-style garden. Renovations are already happening inside the retail space to replace built-in bookcases with more modern shelving, helping organize the store better to improve the shopping experience.
“We are working hard to continually improve the store layout and the appearance of our product selection,” he says. “We’re constantly looking at merchandising to make sure we’re fresh and current.”