Lukas Nursery & Garden Shop: Guiding the next generation

Features - Cover Feature: Top 100 IGCs

Caleb Lukas, accounting manager and co-owner of Lukas Nursery & Garden Shop, says the company is delving into everything from butterflies to videos to stay relevant for Millennial gardeners.

September 23, 2015

Last time we spoke, we talked mostly about the Lukas Nursery Butterfly Encounter, a 4,000-square-foot butterfly conservatory with hundreds of native butterflies and about 60 birds. I know you’ve had it more than a decade, but is there anything new you’re doing this year?

Butterfly Encounter is doing really well. Earlier this year we had a lot of attention and focus toward saving the Monarch butterfly; it seems to have been a big initiative this year. A lot of attention was drawn to us for that. And that certainly increased some numbers of attendance for our admission, and overall our gross sales are probably up about 13 percent for the year. So we’ve been doing well.

Other than having that Butterfly Encounter, what else did you do to promote saving the Monarch butterfly?

We did a lot of social media integration with other groups that were promoting the initiative to save the Monarch butterfly and continued to push the effort socially, as it seemed to be great platform for interaction. We had quite a few people request native species of milkweed. Milkweed is the primary host plant for the monarch butterfly, and it was a hard ask because many of the growers of milkweeds that grow it organically, which is super important, they didn’t touch the native milkweeds. So we were able to work with our growers and get some into production, and now we’re able to offer native milkweed.

What has been your greatest success this year?

We were able to find some new species of plants and bring them to the area, or bring others that are new to the area that have created a lot of buzz. And we were able to market them effectively, primarily through social media. That’s been a key focus of ours this year. This year we actually have a full-time marketing and communications person. When we do market through social media, we do see a direct correlation with the increase of the sales of this product. And so it’s been very effective for us to market through those platforms. We are starting a video series that will highlight new plants and garden tips.

What else is new for you this year?

This year we’re focusing on putting in a new ERP system. Really it’s a point of sale system that we’re hoping will go live January, but it’s been a little bit of a process to try to interview all the [companies] that are out there and find out which one is the best fit for us.

Have you used a POS system before?

We have not. This will be the first jump into the complete 21st century software realm for us, so we’re excited as to all the tools that we can use out there.

What made you decide to install a POS system now?

A goal that we’ve had for the past two to three years is to move forward with a point of sale system, and this year just seemed the most opportune time. We had completed other projects and we wanted this to be kind of our sole project for the year as the capital improvement project. And give it our utmost focus being as we knew we would have a larger hurdle and barrier to overcome not having had any systems in place beforehand.

What has been one of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry?

I think the customer has changed — a lot. Years ago, the customers were more apt to delve into the landscapes themselves and try to learn about it. I think they were more do-it-yourselfers, and now I’ve seen a shift — and this is another reason why we’re trying to continue to grow our landscape design program.

People want the expertise and want you to lead them through all of the processes and steps, and they require more guidance. It’s another reason the video marketing strategy [that includes gardening demonstrations] is going to be important, because people want the guidance, and as a business person you’re trying to think of the most effective and efficient way to give them that guidance. You would love to be able to have a one-to-one ratio of customer to staff, but it’s not cost effective. Using technology and the strategies of using videos to help guide, give tips and give advice will help fulfill that need. And you can continue to give them quality service and products at a low cost.


This interview was edited for length and clarity.