The first Green Thumb Nursery opened in Canoga Park, Calif, more than 80 years ago. Now in its third generation, the family-owned IGC has grown to five retail locations throughout Southern California, plus more than 20 acres of wholesale growing grounds near the original store.
Kelly Bergquist, whose grandfather founded Green Thumb in 1946, takes pride in seeing the stores stay relevant through the years, as she’s noticing more people her age interested in plants.
Kelly, 22, works at Green Thumb’s San Marcos store, along with her brother Scott, 24, and their dad, Steve Bergquist. (Their uncle Bud Bergquist and aunt Nancy Bergquist also operate stores.)
We spoke with Kelly to learn how Green Thumb is staying relevant through changing times and challenging weather.
Q: What’s new at Green Thumb?
A: We’ve been doing seminars and workshops for a few years. We did citrus tastings during the spring, where a lot of us, including my dad, would bring in fruit from our yards and cut it up to make sample platters so people could taste grapefruit, mandarin, lime and lemon. [After tasting the fruit, many people] would end up buying the plant.
My brother helped with a driftwood succulent workshop, which people really liked. Everyone got their own driftwood with holes drilled in it, priced between $7 to $10. We set up tables in the cactus area, and they could pick their own succulents, which are priced from $1.99 to $4.99. They’re able to pick however much they want, on their budget and their terms. Then we guided them to plant their own arrangement. It was a really good turnout; from the first workshop to the last one, we went from 30 people to 80. Each person spent between $40 to $60.
Other stores have had ladies’ nights where [customers] hang out after hours and have snacks and wine. We have Dog Days, and we tell people to bring their dogs. We even get pigs, birds and lizards.
Q: How are those events advertised?
A: Through social media — Instagram and Facebook — and our weekly newsletter, our big marquis sign out on the road, and then just as people are walking in, we remind them what’s going on.
Each store has their own Facebook page. Our tech guy at Lake Forest monitors the [analytics] like the peak hour of when people are online and what they’re looking for, and all the stores get reports to update us every week on what we did well, what our response rates were, and what we need to change.
Q: What’s the benefit of having separate Facebook pages for each store?
A: Because each store is in a different location, it carries the same things, but differently. We have a larger patio department at Lake Forest versus San Marcos, but we do carry the same plants and fertilizers. The gift shops all buy from different people, so we’re all unique. Having the same Facebook page would be confusing ... because they don’t know which store it’s at.
Q: How did the drought affect you?
A: Our customers all wanted California natives; they stayed away from ferns and hydrangeas and things that take ample amounts of water. We used to carry strips of sod, and during the drought we stopped carrying sod because everyone was switching to rock landscapes. But now that the drought’s lifted, people still want an easier-care yard, but they’re not excluding certain plants or drip systems. I haven’t seen a huge rise in demand for sod, but more people are requesting it now that the drought’s lifted. We do carry sod now, but only if requested.