In business, it’s usually wise to follow the growth wherever it takes you. At Breezewood Gardens & Gifts, a family-operated retailer and landscaper in Northeast Ohio, landscape services and boutique clothing are proving to be some of the company’s heaviest-hitting departments. Siblings and co-owners David Kay and Whitney Ickes describe the year Breezewood has had and the direction their IGC is going in.
Garden Center: Tell me about how spring 2018 went for you. Was the weather a difficulty for you?
David Kay: It was a super long, drawn-out winter, so we were plowing constantly, and then April was bad just because of the weather. It was probably one of our best [Mays] ever, mostly because everything was condensed. We weren’t having to warn our customers about covering their plants.
Whitney Ickes: But you couldn’t have really asked for a better May. We never got a frost in May, which was a huge help.
GC: What would you say is Breezewood’s strongest product category right now?
DK: I’d say apparel is probably the biggest [category]. [Our] gift shop and apparel is really-well known — it comes to probably around 20 percent of the business. It’s nice because it’s a 12-month business. It’s not seasonal. And it’s high-end clothing, it’s not gardening [workwear].
WI: It’s boutique clothing, not gardening clothing.
DK: I’d say our fastest-growing department is landscaping. That’s just been going up and up by leaps and bounds, which has been fun. And we’re like a one-stop shop. You can come in, pick out an outfit for your cruise, you can schedule a wedding with our floral department, you can get houseplants for your office, have a landscape designer design your pool or outdoor kitchen project and buy a baby gift on your way out.
WI: I think one thing that’s special about our landscape department is that it allows the customer to actually physically see the plant material on the lot and not just go off of a plan.
DK: We essentially offer everything. We can design, build and maintain. We were a large landscape company through the eighties and nineties. Our dad sold the landscape division in the late nineties, and we were in a 10-year noncompete [agreement]. So, we got back into it maybe seven years ago or so.
It’s an honor to compete with all these garden centers that are around and to stand on our own to make the [Top 100] list. We’re family-owned, we’re part of the community and the three of us — my brother, myself and my mom — we all have our own individual thoughts but, as a team, I think it’s fun to see it come together.” — Whitney Ickes, co-owner, Breezewood Gardens & Gifts
GC: I understand you’ve been carrying your apparel department since the late 1990s. How did the department get started?
WI: It started with a Christmas display that had some Woolrich sweaters on it for display purposes. They sold out in a day and it kind of spiraled from there.
DK: They sold out, we bought more, those sold, and we bought a few more and it just went from there.
GC: What else do you think helps Breezewood Gardens & Gifts stand out in its market?
WI: I think something else that makes us special is that we have extremely low turnover in our staff. Every year, the customer knows who they want to see, who they want to talk to, and that they’re going to get that knowledgeable response, because they’ve grown to know the employees so well.
DK: People like to come in and be greeted by their name. We know the customers, and they know us.
GC: Do you have any final thoughts on what helps to put Breezewood Gardens & Gifts on the Top 100 list?
DK: We’re excited to be back on the list.
WI: A lot of work goes into it, and it’s an honor to compete with all these garden centers that are around and to stand on our own to make the list. We’re family-owned, we’re part of the community and the three of us — my brother, myself and my mom — we all have our own individual thoughts but, as a team, I think it’s fun to see it come together.