The Café at North Haven Gardens features historic photos of NHG and its founders, Ralph and Muriel Pinkus. The space has large windows that can slide open to create an outdoor feel, and has been popular with garden clubs.

North Haven Gardens understands the importance of incorporating plants and gardening with other aspects of life and interests. In December 2014, the garden center opened an art gallery, and in March 2016, they also added a café.

“We’re a place where all of the ‘dots’ connecting the art and science of horticulture are connected,” says Cody Hoya, general manager. “I think of North Haven as a gardening destination — visit, browse the beauty, be inspired by plant combinations and artwork inspired by nature, find something new and have a bite to eat.”

North Haven Gardens had always “dabbled” in promoting the work of local artists, Hoya says, consigning their pieces and featuring them right in the garden center. However, the store was surrounded by other businesses and couldn’t expand — until 2013, when the previous tenant’s lease expired.

“[We] developed the [gallery] space along with a renovation of the entire building, which also ... created the space that would become the café,” he says, adding that he had prior experience as education programming director for the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and at another IGC.

Senior Buyer Sandi Holmes-Schwedler, President and Owner Jon Pinkus and Hoya worked together to create an invitation “kit” for potential artists that included a welcome letter, and an overview of the process for submitting art and how it would be handled, and commission agreements. They also determined what they’d want to showcase — “works in the gallery represent an appreciation for nature or gardening through subject, media, composition or function,” Hoya says.

“It was very much word-of-mouth in building each show. We posted a ‘Refer an Artist’ notice in the gallery .. and we asked that all interested artists submit their portfolios via email so that we could review in advance,” Hoya says. “In our November-December 2015 newsletter, we published an article that was a year-in-review for the gallery with another call for referrals. Within three or four weeks, we were booked through 2016 and are now scheduling artists over a year in advance.”

Left photo: Clockwise, left to right: Rusty E. Allen, Education & Outreach Coordinator, Cody Hoya, General Manager, Carolyn Hestand-Kennedy, Advertising & Marketing Manager, Sandi Holmes-Schwedler, Senior Buyer, and Maria DonJuan, Merchandiser and Giftware Buyer. Right photo: North Haven Gardens’ gallery has helped attract new customers.

Sales figures and attendance numbers are equally impressive. They average 150 guests per reception, and attracted some 375 people to a show in July featuring a collection of student artwork.

“Fiscal year to date, sales of consignment artwork alone is up 141 percent over prior,” Hoya says. “It’s brought new visitors to North Haven Gardens … In 2015, we averaged 30 percent of visitors to the gallery indicating that it was their first visit to NHG — that’s a big success for growing our awareness and reaching new guests through non-gardening channels.”

Through the gallery have come other opportunities, including nature-inspired painting and photography workshops that are taught by the local artists North Haven has met from the gallery and add to an already robust education offering that includes “make-and-take” classes.

The new café has also been popular.

“...The sky’s the limit on tie-in advertising across the three attractions: café, gallery, garden center,” he says. “It’s the perfect way to connect those dots.”