Not many garden center retailers would be eager to open a new business a week before the biggest shopping day in the horticulture industry, but Mike Drake, owner of Lake Effect Nursery & Garden Center, decided that there was no time like the present.
The upstate New York retailer, which is operating with a staff of about 4 employees, opened for business over the first weekend of May, a week away from Mother's Day, a holiday regarded by most garden centers as one of the busiest day of the sales year. Aside from the timing of a mid-spring launch, Drake says the weather has also been a challenge for getting Lake Effect off the ground.
"We just opened [May 6] and of course the weather hasn’t been very good but it’s finally getting action," Drake says. "The challenge, really, has been the weather. We held back on getting in our herbs and trees and actual nursery stock. We had snow [after opening], so it’s been a little stressful, getting everything here in between last week when it was cold and this week now that it’s warm to get ready for [Mother's Day] weekend. But everything is coming together now."
Drake, who has a background in landscaping, says he was interested in breaking into retail as a way to provide the kind of products that he felt were lacking in his market.
"I’m a landscape contractor by trade," he says. "We’ve been doing commercial landscape for multinational companies for about 8 years, so now we’re branching off into this. There aren’t very many garden centers around here that have a good selection of nursery stock in terms of burlap trees and stuff that’s harder to get. We’re looking to have a good selection of everything here."
To help him expand his expertise into greenhouse stock, Drake says he is working with veteran growers from the region at Lake Effect.
"I had an interest in the bulk product end of it. Not a huge interest in the greenhouse product until I guess the last year or so, I started to be more interested in it," Drake says. "Because of that, I’ve hired three guys that worked another retailer here locally, doing that stuff for the last 15 years."
As the season progresses and summer business picks up at Lake Effect Nursery & Garden Center, Drake says he hopes to expand his staff with seasonal help and set up a dedicated website. For now, potential customers can follow the new retailer on Facebook.
Photos courtesy of Lake Effect Nursery & Garden Center.