Rick’s Garden Center: Massive mural helps reel in customers

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Rick’s Garden Center took an artistic approach when untrue rumors that the business was closing spread.

September 23, 2015
Holly Hammersmith

The addition of a next-door nursery and a vibrant mural has helped turn Rick’s Garden Center into a full-service business, and turned the business’s façade into a sort of local landmark.

The Colorado Springs, Colo.-based garden center, which is owned by Gail Estes and her husband, Mike, is decorated with a 30-foot tall mural featuring a hummingbird feeding on a flower and painted on the side of the building. It was added two years ago, and now it’s a popular site for wedding photos. However, its original intention was vastly different. The mural was added as statement to say, “we’re not going out of business.”

This idea came about after rumors had spread that the garden center was closing following the foreclosure of a nursery next door, Estes says. After some careful consideration, the company decided to take on the nursery project in 2012.

“We didn’t want to be competing with anybody, but we also didn’t want to move in and fail,” Estes says.

And failed, they have not. Rick’s sales revenue was $1.5 million in 2014. The couple has owned the center since 1985, but it has been a staple in the community since 1948. As a full-service garden center, the business provides rental and repair of lawn and garden equipment, a plant shop, and nursery and garden center. Today the garden center takes up three-quarters of a city block. The north side of the property borders a busy street, offering good exposure to passersby.

The nursery and shrub business at Rick’s is strictly cash and carry. To maintain good-looking stock, they put in a drip system to improve watering accuracy and to conserve water. It also eliminates puddles, making it easier for customers to navigate stock. Hoop houses help to keep stock out of dry winds and beating sun, she adds.

In addition to the added nursery, Estes says she and her husband attribute the garden center’s success to their flexibility. Over the years, they have adapted to trends and are not afraid to make a change at the right time. At one point the floral department was huge for their company. A few years ago, with the movement to legalize marijuana, hydroponics were big, Estes says.

“We’ve gotten educated over the years, expanding into the different areas,” Estes says. “I think we try to adapt our business to what the demands are. We watch closely to what sells and doesn’t sell at the end of the year.”

When “big box” stores like Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot moved in about a decade ago, they were looked at as a threat. Over time, though, Rick’s Garden Center learned to cater its product line very specifically.

Customers come here to find things not available at large chains, Estes says.