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Rosedale Nurseries has been providing stellar plants to the greater New York Metropolitan area, the Hudson Valley, western Connecticut and northern New Jersey since 1898. The IGC is known for its wide selection and carries nearly 1,000 different varieties of hardy ornamental plants in multiple sizes.
The full-service landscape and retail nursery is headquartered in Hawthorne, New York, with 15 acres at that location and another 400 acres of growing fields about an hour away. With all of that growing space, Rosedale is able to provide larger plant material for customers and its own landscape department.
Pat Colwell is the co-general manager, and she’s been with Rosedale for 31 years. The IGC is well-located, 30 miles outside New York City, conveniently accessible by highway. Many of Rosedale’s customers are able to find them quite easily, whether they’re apartment dwellers looking for the latest hip houseplant or New Yorkers looking to outfit their escape from the city with beautiful trees and shrubs.
“Houseplants definitely are on the rise, but many of our customers have second homes,” she says. “So whenever they’re leaving the city on a Friday afternoon, they can stop by Rosedale on their way to their country home.”
A stellar staff
Colwell says one of the keys to Rosedale’s success is the employees the IGC has hired. Some of those employees took an unusual pathway to hiring.
Because one of the key elements that help an IGC stand out is the knowledge base it brings to its customers, you want to offer shoppers exceptional plant knowledge. Want to know where to find them? Here’s a clue: They’re already in your store. They’re just paying you instead of you paying them. Many of Rosedale’s top employees were plucked from its pool of customers. Some of the very best customers you have may be master gardeners, walking repositories of plant facts who have planted (and killed) hundreds or thousands of plants over their lives. They’re well-suited to answering questions from novice gardeners.
“We like to educate our customers because that way they’re successful in whatever they’re trying to accomplish and we want people to be successful, so they come back,” Colwell says.
Colwell was a customer first, too. She had her own garden business and loved shopping at Rosedale because of the assortment and quality of the plants. She started as a part-time employee and was promoted to co-manager. Her background as a painter and degree in fine art translate well to horticulture and have helped with everything from garden design to store displays.
“A lot of artists become gardeners,” she says. “You learn the same principles in your art classes that you use in your garden design — dealing with texture and color. It’s a natural progression.”
Safe and easy shopping
Another reason Rosedale has been successful is the effort put into making it easy for customers to shop in the sales yard. The yard is divided into blocks by plant material type — evergreens, flowering shrubs, etc. Each block is assigned a salesperson who is responsible for stocking, maintaining it, signage and answering availability questions.
COVID-19 compliance is one of the biggest challenges to any business at the moment and Colwell doesn’t expect that to change right away. She believes the IGC will still be taking precautions for months, even after the vaccine arrives.
The IGC shut down for a few weeks in April, not for a state-mandated shutdown, but to find a way for its employees to work in a safe and comfortable environment. When Rosedale re-opened May 1 with plexiglass at the counters and social distancing marks on the floor, a stampede of eager plant lovers was waiting.
“We just had lines out the door from the garden center, day after day,” she says.
Curbside service and delivery has been a constant since they re-opened. It’s been a record-breaking year, Colwell says, with seed sales and vegetable gardening leading the way. But the momentum has continued as the fall coronavirus surge kept people isolating in their homes, once again looking to their garden center for ideas to beautify the space in which they’re spending so much time.
“We’re finding with our Christmas sales, people are coming in early, buying the tree, wreaths, and really decorating,” she says. “They’re at home. What else are they doing?”
Colwell has noticed an influx of new gardeners throughout 2020, and many of the faces she’s seen above the masks have been noticeably younger. As much as 2020 was a rough year for many people, she thinks the increase in interest in gardening, particularly from the younger generation is a good sign for the overall health of the industry.
“We’re so lucky to be in this industry,” she says. “I’ve been in it for decades. I’ve worked here for 31 years and I still love what I do.”