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I am doing a market survey. Our local nursery is closing and I thought maybe I would start my own store, so I am researching my options.  This would be in downtown Phoenix.  I want to start small, so it might be more of a gardening coop.  I am also looking for suppliers, instructors and a partners.

What basic gardening stuff, do you wish you could just run down to the local store and buy?

What plant related items would make you chose one store over the other, like canning supplies, lawn ornaments, eggs, locally grown meat, cheese, wine, classes, etc?

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Grace, I applaud the effort. I may have some insight for you on this in several areas since I attempted this a couple years ago. Theoretically it's a great idea, but financially it can be difficult to say the least. Contact me offline if you're interested: I would love to share my resources (especially local ones) with you and my successes/failures. All the best to you in your venture.

Be warned Grace, Steve can talk your ear off about gardening and growing!!  <G>

Thanks Steve,  I sent you an email.  Hehe, MaryMcP.

1.  You will meet a lot of nay-sayers out there.  Ignore them.

2.  Taking advice from failed business people is advice from a failed business people.

3.  It seems logical to ask advice from successful business people.  They are proven. Whether they want to give advice to competition is another manner.  But since they are getting out of the business, Baker's has no reason not so impart their experience and wisdom upon you other than they don't see what is in it for them spending their time with you.

4.  I have other thoughts, but that would just be me nay-saying so ignore it would be my advice.  ;-)

I heard that the Bakers were working with someone to open again under the Baker name but with a new location, they did not have any luck making the financials work with the land values where they are today, so as far as I know, that idea is no longer moving forward.  You might be able to make it work...or could use what knowledge was gained through the process they just went through.  I think it will be good to get input from a variety of sources.  Of course knowing what didn't work can be just as important as knowing what does.  As far as I'm aware, Summerwinds is one of the few new nurseries to be moving into the area that has remained opened.  You might also want to talk with Susan Vilardi as she does business with many local family nurseries in the Valley and might have some insights in what makes them successful from a vendor's standpoint.

The things that are important to me in a nursery:

Quality local goods and services

Barring a local provider, just plain ol' quality merchandise - what I love about Bakers is that the people who work there have used all the products and merchandise they carry

Good plant selection - focus on what's in season and proven winners for the Valley

Seasonal reminders - fertilize now, frost cloths on sale, shade cloth... etc.

They have people working there that are my friends.  I like to just go and hang out and ask questions, especially in summer when nobody else is shopping and they have hours to gab about plants.  

There is a nice pond for my son to play with and feed fish - something for kids to do is a bonus.

I'll keep thinking and add more if I come up with anything...

I forgot my #1 rule - being honest!!  The one thing that will make me run screaming from a place of business is someone BS'ing an answer.  I live just across the street from a certain nursery on Glendale Ave near 7th St and staff there have tried to sell me plants they have instead of what I asked for, while telling me this is actually the plant I want, even though the tag says different!!!  I know Darn well what a native mesquite tree looks like, argh ... just thinking about it makes me mad again!

I don't mind if someone doesn't know the answer to my question - I honestly often ask some odd ball things - but "I don't know, let me find out/ ask around" is a perfectly acceptable answer.  One thing I've found when visiting my local Summerwinds, is the staff there have always been nice, pleasant and positive.  Even if they didn't have what I was looking for, they made me feel appreciated for coming in.  That is huge.

Another model for a different take on a garden shop, is Southwest Gardener, who just opened their new location on Camelback in the same building as Changing Hands.  They carry very specialized garden accessories, but do offer a lot of classes and work with Gregory Ware of Dos Arbolitos.  Gregory comes in and does classes and sells plants, but they don't usually carry plants, just some seeds.  They also carry a bit of the highest quality potting soils, so they definitely cater to the higher income brackets, but I do love the vibe at that location.  Great place to meet friends for a drink in Changing Hands, wander around and talk about the interesting stuff to buy.  Now I don't think of them as a hard core gardening supply store, but I do manage to spend some money there even when I wasn't planning to...

Again, I'm not in the business, just a potential customer who would love to see a replacement for Bakers open...   :)  Good luck.

For starters make a list of all things you wont' purchase in Bakers 

Hi Ravi, Do you mean things you purchase elsewhere instead of purchasing at Bakers?  Or things Baker's carries but you just aren't interested in purchasing?

 like plant supplies that are available elsewhere, eg. Growmore Fertilizer is priced higher at Baker's but on the other hand seed mixes Baker's would be my choice.

this sounds like basic customer service tips. I'm often amazed at the lack of understanding that a business has about people experiences more than goods experiences. I can really buy a particular plant or ask a particular question anywhere but i'll frequent places that are friendly about it and honest.

What is interesting about your experience you mentioned is that you go to hang out and not necessarily buy. They however understand that if they have time, if you don't buy today, tomorrow you might. And then you'll recommend a friend because of the positive experience.

My biggest advice about any business, and often I can tell you in ten minutes whether a new business with succeed or fail, is how individuals interact with their customers. Just a friendly hello, or a discussion with enthusiasm for the topic at hand. Oh you're building a shade patio and want something to cover it?! Cool! We have all these options and here are the plusses and minuses. Let's go take a look and see a few options!

Those two things are so helpful to any business owner but are rarely practiced well. Think about your experiences within places and determine what you liked and disliked about those experiences. Apply what you liked to your business and you'll have a leg up.

Great Ideas everyone.  Let me redefine my plant.  It will be small with only native or adapted plants and seeds.  I will have good soil, but to save costs, I will buy truckloads locally and bag it myself.  The education part will focus on old school, traditional methods of gardening in this area, that people can successfully do  at home.  I would also like to have classes about gardening ,cooking or preserving or crafting  the foods they have grown.

I've started or help start several business...I've learned more from the failures than I have from the successes. The successes were almost always due to dumb luck. right time, right place...happen to partner with the right person, etc.

There's been a couple of businesses where I tried to turn a hobby into a business and what I learned was a business is a business. All the hobby aspects fly out the window.

A retail nursery in an urban setting is almost always not going to be growing anything and will buy wholesale instead. Seems like they make most of their money selling hard goods.

But things they are a changing... Recently there's been a pretty big impact on a new business model being used by Uber, Airbnb, etc. Serious people are now expecting a large percentage of business to use this new model in the coming years. That more people will earn a living doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I think could work for gardening too.

Growing plants for profit takes a huge amount of space, which is hugely expensive and a business plan killer right off...unless you get free land. I like to grow Canna. What if I supplied your business with Canna? Virus free Canna...something you can't even buy in any nursery. What if you had 50, 100, 200 other such gardeners in metro Phoenix each willing to supply different plants. That gives you a virtual nursery of maybe 5, 10, 20 acres and a bunch of free "employees".

Each grower could update your web site with current pictures of actual plants, lots of local growing tips, etc. That would allow people to actually buy live plants online,,,something not really possible today. Only Lowes and Home Depot really have any search and the result are of plants they may have.

This would allow you to have a very small store. One pickup truck could hit lots of growers, pick up inventory and keep the small store stocked. Maybe even delivery service since you're already on the road. Growers sell on consignment so you have no inventory cost. You could drop off pots and soil to growers when needed.

With a small store you can take advantage of another urban guerrilla retailing retail space. There's a lot of cheap retail space in Phoenix, but once you create a successful business rates go up. But being small and no inventory costs you'd be free to move to another cheap space. Your main presents would be online so customers should have no problem following you around.

You could have a more friendly coop type feel with the community. Like recycling plastic pots, annual tours of different growers, offering smaller/younger plants than big outfits (why can't I buy a 1 gal palo verde?), offer a 1 year no questions asked return policy (why not?), seed collection, etc.

A gardener's nursery.

I think you'd need a web site, a pickup and pretty much any retail space or maybe no retail space. No employee paperwork. Startup could be pretty fast. It'd be slow at first, but as you gained more growers, more kinds of plants you could have an impressive nursery pretty fast, like within a year for almost no startup cost.

Approaching this as a traditional nursery I think is kind of a nightmare, huge investment, huge running costs, huge risk and in a business with low margins. But approach it as an internet business and it all changes.

The downside is anyone could come in and steal your you'd have to build strong relationships and run a tight ship (just like any business), But I think that should be very doable because most backyard growers aren't going to be in it to get rich, or even make a living. They'll do it because they love some kinds of plants. But you could kick in a huge benefit to your growers...stock. These types of businesses are scaring the heck out of traditional business. Hotels are going ape over Airbnb, A local cap company here in Phoenix, Discount Cab, sees the Uber threat and is now starting its own Uber type business. The same could happen with nurseries. Say this business model is a hit. It could be rolled out across the world in a very short time for almost no just supply the software and know how. Say many of these also have success. Guess how long before Monrovia gives you a call? Now that little bit of stock you gave growers is worth some serious cash.

I'll sign up as your first grower...Canna Island...and pond plants too.


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