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Tuesday, August 22, 2017 Vol. 81 No. 4

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Cheap Tricks: Curing the Winter Doldrums
| Jennifer Polanz
>> Published Date: 1/31/2014
A Walk in the Park
In what might be the most creative use of a greenhouse I’ve heard of in quite a while, Edwards Greenhouse in Boise, Idaho, provided its customers with a park-like setting during January and part of February. This 83-year-old operation is keeping it fresh by bringing in sod to lay down in the greenhouse so customers can kick back and, quite literally, take a walk in the park when temperatures dipped into the negatives. Though a blanket of snow covered outside, the inside was warm and inviting with hand-painted murals on the walls, park benches and even live music. Customers were invited to bring a picnic lunch, walk their dogs and just relax in the grass.

How did the idea come about? “Last January, walking through the greenhouse it was warm and colorful—everyone in the greenhouse thought the same way: we need to bring people here to see that green,” says Anju Lucas, manager of the perennial nursery department. “We had no idea it would be so contagious and spark everyone’s imagination.”

The sod was brought in late December and remains until February 14. Radiant heat in the floor of the geothermal-heated greenhouse helped the grass green up quickly, too. Events like a sidewalk sale and a spring potting party gave customers activities during the unique installation, too.

Bringing the market inside
The demand for locally sourced fresh produce continues to grow across the country and Four Seasons Greenhouse & Nursery in Dolores, Colorado, provides that for customers despite the winter conditions. They simply move the farmers market indoors into the greenhouse and retail area. It runs every Saturday, November through March, and during Christmas it’s in the greenhouse until holiday displays are torn down. Then it moves to the retail section.

“We had been trialing veggies in the greenhouse the previous year for our own personal use and we found that customers kept trying to buy our dinner. So we thought that perhaps we were on to something,” says co-owner Gail Vanik. “Currently, we have 25 vendors participating and have a list of 13 more that wanted to be contacted after the first of the year.”

Products vary from fresh veggies like sunflower greens, lettuce, chard, arugula, peppers, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, kale, cabbage and more to beets, potatoes, carrots and other Cole crop or root veggies. Vendors also carry honey, teas, baked goods, wood-fired pizzas and crepes and craft items.

Why do it? During the market last year, sales jumped 1,200% from January 2011 to January 2012. This year’s jumps weren’t quite as dramatic, but Four Seasons still saw increases in sales year-over-year for November and December.

“The nice thing is that when they come for the market, customers still tend to pick up other things as well—pottery, seeds, Christmas, etc.,” Gail notes.

Turning Junk to Treasure
One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Or in this case, one garden center’s attraction during dreary, subzero temperatures. And customers happily oblige. Otten Bros. Garden Center in Long Lake, Minnesota, started partnering with one of the founders of Junk Market several years ago. Junk Market was a business where two women would search for unique vintage items and quarterly open the doors of their warehouse for a sale. The first Junk Market show at Otten Bros. had nearly 50 artisans featuring vintage items and jewelry, among other products. That first show was too big to reproduce, so the model has been tweaked over the years to become a trunk show for 25 unique vendors brought in by one of the Junk Market founders. The sales run through the Otten Bros. registers and the business takes 30% of the total sales. Last year’s event saw 250 register rings, which in the middle of February in Minnesota is pretty darned impressive.

“The parking lot was packed, and we partnered with several local businesses for lunch and dinner,” says Buyer and Marketing Manager Kris Uter. “We said ‘have lunch, shop at Otten Bros., then have drinks and dinner.’ We had local businesses promoting it and they loved it because the town is flooded.”

Otten Bros. also takes the opportunity to tantalize customers with some new spring lines like lotions, gloves and other fun products. The best part? They don’t spend a dime on advertising the trunk shows—they’re so well known people ask in advance. Otten Bros. promotes them on social media and draws hundreds the day of the event. GP

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