Breathing room

Features - Company Profile

A new location gave Landscape Garden Centers fresh eyes to improve design, expand offerings and try new things.

September 14, 2022

Photo courtesy of Landscape Garden Centers

Landscape Garden Centers got its start out in the country around Sioux Falls, South Dakota, back in 1977, but after 40 years, the city started growing up around the grounds and the IGC decided it was time to start fresh. So three years ago, the company started planning a brand-new location a little farther away from the city with a lot more space.

LGC had been adding onto the old site for decades until renovations started to cost as much as it would to build new. And since the company had been carving off different pieces of land and selling them off for years, they only had about 6 acres left when they decided to take the plunge and look for more land. The new garden center site, which opened this spring, is still within “earshot” of the city, says president and owner Erik Helland, and butts right up against a future major highway, making it an ideal spot.

“So then I just started putting designs together on paper and figuring out ‘How do we create a new site with a fresh feel?'” Helland says. “We basically created a garden center attached to greenhouses and a courtyard that can handle outdoor events, weddings, team building, holiday parties.”

The new event space, known as The Gardens, was introduced to customers at a venue reveal party on Aug. 11 with music, food, drinks and vendors to help attendees envision their event in the space.

To get the ball rolling, the company bought a new greenhouse in the fall of 2020 for a spring 2021 delivery, just in time for the growing season. Construction started in July last year, with the finishing touches going right up until April 1.

In the meantime, while LGC got the garden center retail-ready, they operated their landscape and services division out of the space. “We just operated that and figured out all the kinks during 2021 and then kept on preparing for the garden center in ’21 simultaneously,” Helland says.

The old site remained open until the end of December to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas and enjoy the holidays. Then, it changed hands to a new owner.

When it was time to move, the team filled up about five semis, purged a lot of the material they had collected over the last 40 years and set up shop in the new spot.

Photo courtesy of Landscape Garden Centers

Fresh design

A clean slate gave the IGC room to play with new ideas, moving from 6 to 11 acres. “This allows better organization of our space,” Helland says. “There's just a cleaner look.”

The new layout features a better design and flow to make moving through the garden center easier, and the staff particularly loves the new electric doors, Helland says. The space also features a significantly larger parking lot with about 50 more spaces (and up to 180 spaces if necessary).

The larger spot also includes a separate office building and a space called The Café for meetings or graduation parties. To keep equipment and materials out of the elements, there’s another building in the back.

The brand-new greenhouse is another major upgrade, since the IGC grows about 30% of its own plant material like annuals, perennials and balled and burlap trees. But the Landscape Garden Centers team didn’t replace everything. They decided to repurpose a lot of materials from the old site into the new garden center including the old front sign that had been up for 40 years.

“We took all of that stuff down and took it to a sawmill, and cut it into different pieces and elements. Then we used that to create some really cool elements in the garden center,” Helland says.

One of the biggest benefits of the new site was the opportunity to better organize and display offerings, Helland says. “We’ve organized things to be a little bit more intimate rather than having a huge area.”

Helland noticed that with too large of a space, an area can look picked over. Instead, he has opted for a design to make it easier to move through the store and see everything in stock, rather than displaying everything in a wide-open design.

Helland and his team paid close attention to traffic flow throughout the spring, creating spaces and adjusting for the best accessibility.

“Sometimes you do things a certain way just because that’s the way it’s been done, but now it’s like, ‘Wait a minute. Let’s really take a fresh look at things and decide if that’s really what we want to do. Is there a way to make this smoother or easier?'” Helland says.

To do that, the whole team gets involved in the process. Looking at security footage, they can assess the flow on a busy day and see where traffic jams are happening. Then, they can move products around and reorganize to make more room or attract customers to move a different way.

“And we ask for a lot of feedback from our customers and then I take that to heart and tweak it. Sometimes it work and sometimes you have to change it again but some of the simplest things can make the biggest difference,” Helland says.