Q: How is your fall business? I noticed your website seems to have a big fall focus, with a Halloween countdown and tabs with information about fall planting, lawn fertilization and decorating.
A: Fall is very good for us. We sell a tremendous [number] of mums. We’ve had mums in for three weeks at least (interviewed on Aug. 26), and they are starting to sell. Around here, people get tired of their annuals, and they want to change it up and put fall stuff out there. We have mums, we have combinations, we have ornamental peppers, cabbage and kale, asters in three colors, Montauk daisies. We’re going to roll out pumpkins, corn stalk, gourds, straw bales and all the [decorative items] for fall and Halloween. So far, woody ornamentals and evergreens and trees have been slow. Even in the spring they were slow.
“It has been 35 years, almost, of doing this, and I still enjoy what I do. In spite of all of the trials and tribulations, the thing that I like the most is it’s something different every day.” — Jim Jenkins, co-owner, Jim Jenkins Lawn & Garden Center
Q: Why is fall so big at your store?
A: We’ve worked on it for the past 10 or 12 years and made it big. My wife [Lisa Jenkins, co-owner] decided that we were going to really go after the fall thing. We don’t sell that many plain old orange pumpkins. We get all of the different unusual novelty ones that you can’t find anywhere else, that you can’t get at a grocery store, and the different heirloom types. The greens and the blues and the striped, there’s probably 25 different [varieties] that we get in, so we sell a heck of a lot of those. The other thing that we do that has made [fall and pumpkin sales] very significant for us is that a lot of people sell them by the pound or weigh each one. We pre-price every single pumpkin. We do use a scale, we see what they weigh, and we put a dollar figure on it. It takes away that price shock, in our opinion. Customers get overwhelmed [if you weight it,] whereas they look at it and see a $6 pumpkin and say, “I’ll take that.” It moves them through checkout quicker, too.
Q: You mentioned that the landscaping division at the company could be bigger, because customers want help and services, but you’re having trouble finding good people. Would you say that’s your biggest challenge at the moment?
A: That’s probably our biggest challenge, is help. It’s all across the board. It’s not a matter of what you’re willing to pay people, either. It’s a real dilemma. It’s not just landscaping. It’s every trade. Everybody wants to sit around at a computer or [use their] smart phones. Nobody wants to work with their hands anymore. We’re turning [clients] down because of the staff situation, and we kind of put a stop to any landscaping for the past month and a half. I have some college guys that are pretty good, they’ve been doing landscape work for a few years. But in early July, they want to take vacation, and then they go back to school. It came to a grinding halt right before Cultivate. It’s the same with cashiers. It used to be that high schoolers would come through looking for a job, but that doesn’t happen anymore. Kids don’t want to work. They are too busy with everything else, and they’ve got a smart phone in their face constantly.
Q: With that being said, what have been some of your notable successes this year?
A: I’m hoping fall will be really good. Spring, in spite of shrubs and woodies and trees being slow, and considering the weather we had and some other things, we did very, very good with color, with annuals and hanging baskets and perennials.
Q: How is your custom container business?
A: We’ve gotten to the point where we have the same [customers] every year that we are planting for. We aren’t getting a lot of new interest in that, it’s just repeat business, but it’s a nice thing because it’s one of those things you can pretty much charge what you want because people aren’t willing to do it themselves. We have some people where we [provide door to door service].
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to mention that I didn’t ask?
A: It has been 35 years almost of doing this, and I still enjoy what I do. In spite of all of the trials and tribulations, the thing that I like the most is it’s something different every day. It’s something unique and different, and we still have a heck of a lot of customers that are really nice and friendly and spend money. They come in and they’re happy to see us, and we’re happy to see them.