Matt Rhoad, Garden Center Manager
Green Valley Greenhouse & Garden Center, Ramsey, MN
Growing Plants – And Business Connections – Drives Profits for Green Valley Greenhouse & Garden Center
Focused on strengthening their wholesale and retail brand, Green Valley Greenhouse & Garden Center is working on identifying their niche and streamlining their offerings in order to deliver the best of what they’re known for in the Ramsey, MN, community. The Greater Twin Cities Metro area indie retailer hangs its hat on incredible gardening classes, custom plantings, experienced advice, unique gifts and above all else, growing high-quality plants – both for wholesale and retail.
“Instead of expanding the brand, we’re making the brand stronger by identifying the things we’re really good at, which we feel is growing great products,” Garden Center Manager Matt Rhoad says. “We’ve got a great relationship with the community, so we’re fostering those two together.”
Second-generation Owner Aaron Davis says, “We’re not looking to add services – we’re looking to streamline and do better at what we’re good at and known for.”
Green Valley is known for their custom patio pots, annual hanging baskets, veggie and herb combos, and spruce pots. “About 70-75 percent of everything in our garden center is grown by us,” says Aaron. What they can’t grow in their production greenhouses, such as tropicals, is supplemented from other growers.
From selling vegetables at the Minneapolis Farmers Market to serving local and national retailers as a contract grower, the business has evolved to include 18 acres of growing facilities. Aaron’s parents, Wayne and Jane Davis, started the business in 1977 with one small growing structure, mainly focusing on vegetables. They soon included annuals in their growing plan, and sold off their product at farmers markets and to local grocers.
“As the business grew, there was an interest among the community to shop, so they let neighbors pick out some things,” says Aaron. Now, Green Valley Garden Center is a thriving retail operation.
“Our mission is to provide our customers with top-quality plants, products, know-how, experience, advice and help in order to create inspiring areas for them in their homes and throughout the community,” says Matt.
Aaron adds, “The No. 1 thing we want to do with our company is honor God, and like Matt touched on, we want to grow quality plants at a good value for our customers. Then, a mission of mine is to help our employees grow personally, too.”
Over the years, the retailer has made cosmetic changes to its structure to enhance the overall shopping experience. Since the retail garden center was carved out of the existing production facility, they’ve added façades, different display sections and even a vintage 1952 Studebaker truck to make it more shoppable. In the future, they plan to update the customer bathrooms and make small layout changes.
“We are going to continue to expand our customer base, and, as a company as a whole, we are looking to add on another 5 to 7 acres of growing space in the next 5 or 10 years,” says Aaron.
Bringing attention to the quality plants that they deliver, Matt and Aaron are working with the rest of the Green Valley team to develop a line of exclusive annual combination planters or pots that customers can only find at the garden center.
Establishing A Positive Reputation In The Community
Utilizing the expertise of the staff, Green Valley hosts regular classes on growing your own vegetables, creating container gardens and a range of other projects for the DIY gardener. “We get quite the following on these classes, and I think that is what has helped us reach out to the younger generation,” Matt says. “They have an interest in gardening, and they want to know how to do it.”
Green Valley has several rewards programs to maintain a loyal customer base. The first is a standard rewards program that tallies points based on the amount of dollars spent, and then there is a redeeming window when customers can turn in those points for money off their purchases.
The second is a check-in-based program that’s linked to the garden center’s mobile app. Customers get their virtual rewards card punched at the register when they make a purchase, and after so many punches, they receive discounts. They also earn rewards on special occasions, like their birthday.
The retailer likes to delight customers with whimsical displays and signage that keep the shopping experience fun. “We have a lot of chalkboards that we use to communicate messages to customers, and we try to make those as interesting and humorous as possible,” says Matt.
He continues, “But for me as a manager, the quality of the shopping experience really boils down to our staff and crew. We’ve been blessed with having some amazing people work here who are knowledgeable and experienced. We preach a lot about your personality. We deal with the public, and you’ve got to have a shining personality, winning smile and helpful attitude. We’re not here just to grow plants, but to also grow people.”
This combination of overall store aesthetic, customer perks and top-notch personnel is what Matt says creates their memorable shopping experience.
Green Valley’s work in the community of Ramsey also contributes to the store’s favorable reputation. They donate store gift cards to local groups for fundraisers.
“We give a fair amount of donations to local events and charities,” Matt says. “We try to maintain ourselves as an active member in the community, which goes hand-in-hand with fundraising.”
It’s a community that Matt has grown to love after moving to the area just shy of three years ago in November 2016.
Through what he calls “divine providence, and divine providence alone,” Matt found his calling at Green Valley. Before moving to Minnesota, Matt worked in the hospitality industry in Michigan. When crazy working hours kept him from his family, he knew it was time for a change.
“I’ve been lucky to have known Aaron for a long, long time – since we were little through our church groups,” he says. “We were at this church conference one summer swapping stories on how the year was going, and he had this crazy idea that we should move up to Minnesota.”
A few months later, Matt and his family relocated for his new job.
“Matt is a people person. He is a great manager of people, and he cares about them,” Aaron says. “We knew we could teach him the plant aspect, but you can’t teach personality. And he had it – that was what attracted us to him.”
Matt says, “I took a roundabout way of getting here, but it’s definitely the right place.”
After switching from the hospitality industry, Matt is proud to call the lawn and garden business his home. He works hard alongside Aaron to improve it for the better and make changes to Green Valley that will help the wholesaler and retailer carry on well into the future.
“We’re constantly going to industry shows and tours – things of that nature,” he says.
Last year marked Matt’s first attendance to the IGC Show. “I was really excited to be there and learn as much as possible and see what’s new out there.”
With a year of being a part of the Garden Centers of America association under his belt, Matt is excited to continue learning from his fellow independent peers.
“We are very much looking forward to all that we can learn and gain from this partnership.”