FarWest boosts buying power by cross-promoting landscaping and retail services.
Courtesy of FarWest Landscape and Garden Center

Q: How would you describe the different services you specialize in?

A: From ’76 to ’84, it was just a landscape construction business, then in ’84, we opened up the garden center. Those are definitely the two major parts. We have a very small maintenance division, just a single crew that maintains yards, mows, trims, that type of thing. Within retail, we do custom potting. We go out to people’s houses and do flowers and some subdivision flowers.

Q: What is the spectrum of landscaping services you offer?

A: For the whole company, landscape installation is a complete, full service. So, a lot of people just call up and say “I need some help” and we’ll send a designer out, meet with them, design it, estimate it, and then we can install just about any part of your landscaping — water features, walls, patios, obviously plants and dirt and grading and stuff like that.

Q: How has 2016 been for you so far?

A: It’s been great. We’re tracking along at about 6 percent [sales] up over last year. Last year was a phenomenal year for us, I think it was for a lot of garden centers in the Pacific Northwest that I talk to. We were up about 9 percent last year and we’re up about 6 percent this year, which is pretty good considering the gains we had last year. It’s hard to continue to grow at that rate.

Q: What would you attribute that growth to?

A: A couple things on that. I think part of our growth is out of our hands: we’ve had two phenomenally good weather years. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I don’t think we’ve ever had back-to-back, almost perfect springs where we don’t lose weekends in April and May. It’s out of your hands, but we sure do love it when it comes our way. Our economy, also, here in Boise is booming right along right now. We came out of the recession about 2013. Fourteen was good, ’15 was phenomenal and we’re still just cranking right along. So, perfect weather, perfect economy, those are good factors that help us out so we can make a lot of mistakes and still do OK.

I think the thing that helped us that we can control is we managed to hold on to our staff. We’ve got a very good, knowledgeable staff here. The full-time people — our average tenure is 19 years. Our part-time staff … there’s a few first-year people but the average there is seven years. So, we’ve managed to hold most of our staff through those recession years, and that’s paying big dividends now; they know what’s going on, they’re very much the knowledgeable plant staff and product staff that you need.”

FarWest owner Dennis Fix says his landscape and retail services are “symbiotic.”
Courtesy of FarWest Landscape and Garden Center

Q: You mentioned good weather. What does perfect weather look like in your part of the country?

A: Good weather, for us, is starting early. If we have a wet spring, then we can have some issues with losing sales. Our season starts here in March, but April and May are definitely the money-making months for us, the high traffic. One of our ads that we do is a rain-and-shine coupon in April, saying that if you come in on a rainy day, you get 25 percent off a product and 10 percent off on a sunny day. [Over the] last two years, we’ve had almost no rainy day coupons redeemed because we just have not had that many rainy days in April. You can’t lose too many Saturdays and make them up later on. We’ve not lost one Saturday in the last two years, during the season from about March 15 through about June 15. We did get a little warm this year. We shut down a little early. We got to about 105 [degrees] in the first week of June, so it slowed us down a little bit, but then it turned right back around and cooled down a bit there at the end of June and July, so we had some nice catch-up weather.

Q: Do the landscaping and retail sides of your business cross over and support each other?

A: Absolutely. For our market here it’s just such a symbiotic relationship. You’ve got people who come in here that look around for plants and we’re talking to them and their project’s getting a little overwhelming for them, so we can recommend they sit down with a designer and talk for a few minutes. If the designer’s here, we’ll walk them over, talk to [the customer] right then, maybe meet them out at their house, go design something, maybe go as far as their budget will go. Then [the customer] will come back in afterwards because they had such a good experience with that and they buy the plants and do the rest themselves. We’ve got the buying power to buy larger quantities of plants. We can go to our vendors and get better deals because we’re buying quantities for bigger jobs. We’re 400 miles from most of the tree and shrub growers, so it’s hard to get weekly deliveries without minimums and with landscape feeding that, it helps to keep those weekly trucks coming for retail. It goes back and forth, it just really works. We have retail customers that started as landscape customers, we have landscape customers that started as retail customers.