From the Memphis Commercial Appeal, April 19, 2009:
Trip Trezevant isn’t one to let a sluggish economy discourage him from moving ahead with what he believes to be a solid business plan.
That’s why earlier this month, Trezevant opened The Market at Poplar Estates, a home and garden store located on eight sprawling acres near the Germantown-Memphis border.
Actually, The Market at Poplar Estates isn’t so much a store as it is a bazaar. In exchange for rent or a percentage of sales, Trezevant said the new business at 6993 Poplar will give independent vendors a place where they can sell plants, patio furniture, lawn decorations, fountains, greenhouses and other related goods and services.
“When people come into here, it’s like coming to the mall,” Trezevant said. “This is going to be a one-stop shop for everybody.”
National sales trends suggest now might not be the best time to open a nursery or garden store.
According to Sageworks — a company that tracks financial data on privately held companies — nursery and garden stores saw overall sales growth of 0.1 percent last year, down substantially from 6.19 percent and 6.55 percent growth during the two previous years.
Even so, Trezevant said he believes strong business concepts are going to survive and thrive, even during financially difficult times.
“If people are staying home more, they’ll spend more on their homes,” Trezevant said. “I have no problem with the economy. I have no fears about the recession.”
Apparently, Mike Earnest doesn’t have many fears about the economy, either.
Earnest was semi-retired, working a couple of weeks a month as an assistant manager at a Rite Aid store. Then he saw a building available for lease at the intersection of Central and Cooper — and decided that would be a perfect location for a garden shop.
So Earnest opened Midtown Nursery, located at 2120 Central, last month.
“A lot of my friends thought I was crazy, but I knew I couldn’t wait a year for the economy to get better because then the building might not be available. I’m getting a big response from the people in Midtown.”
An outcry from Midtowners was one of the reasons why Stringer’s Garden Center decided earlier this year to keep its East Memphis location open.
Josh Davis, who owns Stringer’s Garden Centers at 2974 Poplar in East Memphis and 9495 Poplar in Germantown, said he has no regrets about the decision to keep both locations open.
The East Memphis store now uses less space and keeps only the more popular types of trees and shrubs in stock, but Davis said business has been pretty good.
Garden stores tend to do better when the weather is pleasant, so Davis said he’s hoping the recent cold snap will give way to warmer temperatures.
“We’re still very satisfied,” Davis said. “The people in Midtown are happy we stayed open. We’ve been getting a lot of good comments.”
Davis said he’s not worried about the opening of Midtown Nursery because “there’s plenty of money to go around” for small independent garden shops.
Wholesale Plants Etc., located at 3000 Broad, is also trying to tap into that customer base.
As the name suggests, Wholesale Plants used to sell its goods only to other plant and flower shops. However, after the economy took a turn for the worse, co-owner Winsor Stockton Jr. said it made sense to start selling directly to retail customers.
While Stockton remains concerned about the financial climate, he said the shift has worked out well for Wholesale Plants.
“I think we have a niche now,” Stockton said. “People still want blooming and green plants. Buying them at wholesale prices is very attractive to them.”
There’s been a flurry of activity with garden-related businesses this spring. For example:
The Market at Poplar Estates, 6993 Poplar in Germantown, opened earlier this month.
Midtown Nursery, 2120 Central, opened last month.
Stringer’s Garden Center, 2974 Poplar, downsized earlier this year but decided to remain open.
Wholesale Plants Etc., 3000 Broad, made the decision to sell its products directly to ret