Jon Denney, President/Co-owner
Portland Nursery, 2 Stores in Portland, OR
Portland Nursery Sets the Standard for Horticultural Excellence
With the largest plant selection in the Portland area, including gardening staples and rare, unusual specimens, it's no wonder how Portland Nursery earned its tagline, "A passion for plants. A nursery for plant people."
The family-owned indie garden retailer operates two locations in Portland – Stark Street and Division Street – within three miles of each other. The Stark store accounts for two-thirds of the company's annual sales, according to President/Co-owner Jon Denney.
"We've always had a mission statement here at Portland Nursery to set the standard for horticultural excellence, a complete selection and, above all, customer satisfaction," he says.
Portland Nursery's mission is achieved through its diverse selection of annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, grasses, native varieties, edibles, houseplants and water plants. Both locations feature the same full line of garden center products, with a few minor exceptions.
To appeal to younger consumers and those who don't have enough space for a large outdoor garden, the retailer expanded their houseplant sections at both stores.
Teaching customers about plants and plant care is a huge focus for Portland Nursery, and the retailer stands out from the competition as an education-driven garden center. "We pride ourselves on educating customers on how to be successful, and we offer a no-hassle return policy for those who aren't," says Co-owner Jill Dunsmuir.
They regularly offer free advice and help over social media, especially to the younger generations, about the basics of gardening.
Living up to their reputation as an educational garden center, they have crafted a fun "Houseplant Parenting Tips" campaign to help customers learn how to care for their new houseplants. They run this campaign twice a year for their special houseplant sale, which offers 30 percent off all indoor plants.
Portland Nursery strives to keep customers – and employees – happy and loyal by creating a fun culture in-store that makes for a memorable shopping experience. "We do our best to keep a fun culture so our employees enjoy their work," Jill says. "When our employees are happy and having fun, so are the customers."
A robust calendar of events helps establish a culture of fun and excitement at Portland Nursery. With something happening every month, including classes, special sales and seasonal celebrations, customers have unlimited reasons to make frequent in-store visits.
"We also do events for charitable plant organizations, because we want to support the neighborhood and be a part of the community," Jon says.
One of the most popular events at Portland Nursery is their annual Apple Tasting, which has delighted patrons of the garden center for more than three decades. For two consecutive weekends in October, the retailer brings in 60 different varieties of apples and pears for guests to taste and purchase, as well as cider.
The free event draws in about 50,000 people between the two weekends, and they go through 140,000-150,000 pounds of apples.
"We didn't realize how apples appeal to every age group, from 2-year-olds to 80-year-olds," Jon says. "Our apple tasting has brought some awareness to the more unique varieties."
You don't stay in business as long as Portland Nursery without making updates and changes for the better – that's why Jon always has his eyes set on what they can improve at both locations.
The first major project on the horizon is to reflow the layout of the Division store, tackle some physical improvements and make the parking lot more efficient. As a long-term goal, Jon envisions opening a third retail garden center in Vancouver, WA.
To garner examples for how they can revamp their store facilities and layouts, Jon and his wife, Carol, attended the 2018 GCA Summer Tour Seattle. The Seattle-area garden centers and greenhouses they toured provided endless inspiration for them.
"We got some great ideas," he says. "We never thought about having a garden center where everything is in a greenhouse."
He continues, "It was a fun trip, and worthwhile for the amount of information we gained. We really enjoyed the networking, and being able to talk with some of the vendors and other garden centers."