Having offered both retail and landscaping services since its first year of business in 1981, Willow Ridge Garden Center and Landscaping is no stranger to sharing knowledge from both specialities to create solutions for customers. Retail manager Greg Steele discusses the ways Willow Ridge plays to its strengths and gives clients full-spectrum service for their home projects.
Q: What would you say your market has come to rely on Willow Ridge for?
A: Obviously our plant material is there, but we also specialize in water gardening, fairy gardening and outdoor living products — especially high-end things like benches and tables, but our fairy gardening department and our water gardening department really sets us apart from a lot of others. Of course, the plant material is what most people come to us for.
Q: How long have miniature gardening and outdoor living been major categories for you? How did they grow into the focus points that they are today?
A: Fairy gardening started probably about eight years ago, but it’s grown considerably over the years even though some people thought it was just going to be a fad. It has stayed the course, so probably a quarter of our interior garden center building is devoted to fairy gardening products.
As far as outdoor living, that was really brought about by our landscaping department. We actually added a section onto our outdoor display area that was basically to show people what we do in landscaping. We also host events in our outdoor living area, special fundraising events for local organizations and people who want to rent out the space for their parties and different clubs and associations.
Q: Your website has some sections dedicated to planting advice and consulting. What can you tell us about these extra services?
A: That is one of our focuses on the retail end, because a lot of people like to do the work themselves, they just don’t know where to get started. We have a program called “We Plan, You Plant.” [Customers] bring us pictures and measurements of the area and what kind of sunlight they have, then we go through the nursery and just suggest things to put in different areas … and [how to have] the right plant for the right place. It takes the guesswork out of just trying to do a landscape. You get some professional advice on what to do and the homeowner does the work themselves. We also offer that same service on the water gardening end. There’s a lot of people, do-it-yourself type people, that want to build their own water gardens and water features: ponds, waterfalls and things like that, they just don’t know the technical aspects of it. It’s a free service.
Q: How has 2016 been for your so far?
A: The spring was pretty good. We had a warm, early spring, which can be a help and a hindrance in some ways. It got everybody out early but then you pay for that on the latter end. Then of course, it got really hot and dry really quick, so … months like June, July and August have been wanting. On our landscaping end, we’re good year-round. That part of our company has only grown since we’ve been in business.
Q: What else do you think keeps Willow Ridge competitive? What are your plans for future growth?
A: “For the most part, we’re forward-looking. We’ve partnered up with some business coaches. We’re doing a lot of social media — I’m sure everybody is, but we’re not just floundering with it, we’re trying to be coached on it. We’re just always looking for ways to improve what we do and how we do it. All of our key employees go to seminars, they go to different shows and things that have training programs to help increase our knowledge of not only marketing but customer service, new plant introductions and new products. All of those things, we do all year-round. We continue to try to help ourselves grow and help our employees have a better knowledge base.