With a 30-year anniversary set for 2018, B.B.BARNS Garden-Gift-Landscape Services in Arden, N.C., near the booming city of Asheville, has big plans. We caught up with owner Barney Bryant to learn what sets the company apart and what the future holds.
Q: What is the primary key to your success?
A: People [come from] four states to buy plants from us, but it’s all about hiring good people who are passionate about plants and people. At full season, we’re up to 100 employees, and it’s about building one-on-one relationships. I feel like if I give to my people, it comes back to us as a company. We hire the right people, take care of them, and make sure they’re paid well. Then the customers and profit comes.
Q: What plants or programs are most popular?
A: Succulents are a huge craze. Containerscaping, alpine gardens and trough gardens are all just blowing up. Millennials are exploding in growing their own vegetables, so we’ve tripled our vegetables and our fruit trees.
We’ve also doubled our gifts, and we’ve moved into accessory clothing and jewelry. I’ve just been amazed at what’s taking place with that. Price point is critical. We’re a destination to run in and pick up a nice card and a nicely wrapped gift for $25.
Our container division, where we go to the [client’s] home and install containers, has been written up in Fine Gardening and Southern Living. We’ve not launched a maintenance program on those, but we’re seeing the service side has a lot of potential for growth.
We also have “garden coaches” that have been a huge success. We go to a site and coach the homeowner. A lot of people get a lot of therapy out of gardening; they just want some coaching about light and drainage. We also have a lot of people moving in from other regions who need to learn a new zone.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge?
A: Our population has doubled in two years. The biggest challenge has been the infrastructure — the city growing too fast for people to get to us. The road system is 10 to 12 years behind, and it’s not prepared to handle the growth. We draw from where it’s easy to get to us. If we had good road systems, I’d need a bigger parking [lot].
Q: What else sets you apart from the competition?
A: We are closed on Sunday. Very few garden centers close on Sunday, but we’re about family. One, it’s for our religious convictions, but it’s really for people to have a day of rest. We do get people who think we should be open, but they’ve come to accept it, and they just wait if they want quality plants and quality service.
It’s so important to take care of your people and what they need. If [they] are happy, your customers are happy, so it just works for our good. We outperform most garden centers that are open on Sundays.
Q: What are your top priorities for the future?
A: We’re hoping to do a renovation over the next five years to just raise our bar. I’ve been encouraged to add a location, but I want to spend the next several years perfecting this one. We’ve got room to expand, and we’ve got to create the whole experience.
We’re working on a five-year master growth plan for a total retrofit where we can have dining and a permanent seminar space. We want to make this a destination where, instead of spending 30 minutes, they have lunch and spend an hour and a half. It’s about the whole experience. Life is shaped by not what you accomplish, not what you own, but how you build relationships.