April 3, 2013 in Nursery Tours
My annual slew of nursery tours is in full swing. This season I’ve been to Al’s Garden Center, Bark & Garden Center, Vassey Nursery, Portland Avenue Nursery, Willow Tree Gardens, Watson’s Greenhouse, and most recently Gordon’s Garden Center.
I haven’t been to Gordon’s in many years (probably 7-8). It isn’t located in an easy to reach place. Yelm, WA would be considered BFE in my opinion. I should know. I used to live there. In fact, I lived in Yelm when Gordon’s was still a grocery store. Yes, I’m that old. I remember when Gordon began converting the once hometown grocery into a little garden shop with character (not coincidentally it happened when Thriftway moved into town).
It just so happens I was the manager at Boulevard Nursery in Olympia when Gordon suddenly passed away and Kellie Petersen took over ownership of the shop. Kellie turned Gordon’s into a thriving destination nursery that rivaled locations like Swanson’s Nursery in Seattle. Kellie made regular appearances on Gardening with Ciscoe. She was dubbed “The Rose Queen” with good reason. Gordon’s carried so many roses you’d think Raft Island had moved to Yelm.
At Boulevard we considered Gordon’s our biggest competition. That could have been because both locations had new owners at the time. Jeff had just purchased Boulevard and Kellie had just taken over Gordon’s. They had statements to make since they were taking over for men who were leaders in the garden center industry. That was when I took my leave of the retail garden business. When I last visited Gordon’s it was vibrant, beautiful, and the place to be each Spring.
The weather on Easter Sunday was beautiful. I asked my sister-in-law if she wanted to head out to Gordon’s with me after church. We visited Bark & Garden last year so it wasn’t a stretch. She agreed and after lunch we hopped in the car for the drive.
We pulled into the small parking lot and it was quite empty despite the gorgeous weather. That wasn’t unusual since it was a holiday. One major new thing about Gordon’s is that the Yelm Food Co-op is now housed in 1/2 of the original gift shop. Of course we had to browse the grocery department. However, it did make me sad. Gordon’s was once known for their amazing gift shop and yearly holiday party complete with wine and snacks. The garden center’s gift shop was small and didn’t have anything particularly special.
Outside the under cover shopping area was sparse. There were a number of employees busy doing, I’m not sure what, but none of them said hello or acknowledged our presence. This area once had displays full of seasonal plants. Now, displays are sparse and the ground covering is fraying in places.
The vegetable start house was the only portion that was full. There were loads of great looking vegetable starts. If I had been in the market for veggies I would have been impressed.
We wandered through the main outdoor display area, but it didn’t take long. There wasn’t much to see. Weeds were popping up everywhere, the ground wasn’t clean and the fountain wasn’t running. There were very little by way of plants and it looked sad. There was a very small selection of perennials that looked nice, but not many. At the back of the nursery is the “shade house.” Normally this house is full to the brim of the most beautiful azaleas and rhododendrons. This year it is full of overwintering perennials, frayed ground cloth, weedy plant areas and the back was full of equipment and a tractor.
The large tree area was also rather sparse. It looked as if their fruit trees had been mostly sold out. The sawdust beds they hold the fruit trees in were not practical. I saw trees at the back of the 15′ bed I wanted to look at, but wasn’t about to climb in with my flip-flops on. Once again, the other areas were full of weeds and it wasn’t full. I kept saying that it just made me sad.
Our last stop was the hard goods area. I wanted to pick up some organic weed killer for my father-in-law. Before we went into the hard goods building we spied containers of seed potatoes. Now I was impressed. They must have had 20 varieties of seed potatoes. They were each labeled and organized. I found many varieties I hadn’t heard of. I was tempted to purchase a few but I didn’t have any spending money with me. I oogled the merchandise, but left empty handed.
Inside the hard goods building, no one was at the register. Probably because there really weren’t any customers. The shelves of remedies and fertilizers were empty. There were holes everywhere. They had 1 organic weed spray (not the one I wanted), they were out of all of the deer spray, there were empty spots all over the place. It was as if they didn’t care. This was the only point where someone actually spoke to us. An employee walked in the building and mentioned how hot it was in there. She opened the door and casually asked us if we needed help. I so badly wanted to stop her and ask what had happened to the store. I refrained.
The whole car ride home I talked with my sister about how the whole visit was a bust and how it made me sad. I felt bad for Kellie. How had it gone so horribly wrong. I understand business. I know we are dealing with a recession. However, I refuse to believe that you can just give up. I know she sold off a piece of the property, but I see that as an opportunity to concentrate your efforts to make your shop better. I hope that at some point Gordon’s can turn it around and revive the once thriving business.
Will I go back? Right now I would have to say no. However, I would like to visit again to see if anything changes.