Sustained success

Portrait by Amber Smith

There has been a lot of talk, and some concern, about the rapidly changing nature of the retail garden market over the past few years. But (of course) this isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that IGCs have had to adapt with the times.

In this month’s cover story, you can read all about a Connecticut grower-retailer that has not only stood the test of time to celebrate its centennial this year, but it has also adapted time and time again to the changing needs of the garden market. From rising property values to big-box store competition to constantly evolving customer demands, Gilbertie’s has 100 years of experience overcoming adversity.

Gilbertie’s Garden Center has run the gamut of plants starting off with cut flowers, then diving into potted plants, then ornamentals and finally the organic plants, microgreens and herbs it’s known for today. Now in its fourth generation of leadership, the family history is strong at the store, making it a unique experience. Not to mention that it has seen plenty of other IGCs in the area come and go.

While they say that change is the only constant, there’s another constant in the industry that becomes evident when you talk to longtime owner Sal Gilbertie — a passion for plants.

“I think people who garden are closer to creation and the goodness that comes from the soil. And when you get into the garden, it changes you,” he says. “I just love my garden. I get into my garden and I’m in another world because there’s so much peace to be found in gardening.”

That peace is something many have discovered over the past two years. Whether indoors or out, plants are sparking joy for new customers and those budding plant-lovers are changing the retail garden market. Instead of marketing to ‘gardeners,’ IGCs are selling to ‘plant dads,’ ‘houseplant enthusiasts,’ and ‘plant ladies.’

Kate Spirgen kspirgen@gie.net

But if we can learn one thing from the Gilbertie’s story, it’s the fact that sustained success comes from listening to your customers, changing with the market and not being afraid to take risks. I hope you find some good risks to take this spring and have some fun adapting to the changing times!

March 2022
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