Together We're Better!

GCA Summer Tour 2014

  • June 22, 2014
  • June 25, 2014
  • San Francisco, CA


  • Your membership saves you $200!
  • For only $100 more, you can become a full GCA member and take advantage of additional savings at the IGC Show and other benefits!
  • Vendors must be GCA members to join us on the Suumer Tour. The price above includes $645 for the Summer Tour plus $699 for your GCA membership.

    Thank you for joining GCA and supporting the independent garden center channel!

*** EARLY BIRD SAVINGS *** Registering before MAY 31 saves you $50 per registration!
Registration is closed

San Fran Summer Tour:
16 Diverse Destinations

From urban chic to suburban cool, the garden centers featured on this year’s GCA Summer Tour, June 22-25, are set to give tour-goers key insights and inspiration found only in the diverse San Francisco Bay Area market. The three-day event, which takes participants to San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose, will feature five or more stops each day, from large destination garden centers to small, niche-oriented stores.

This summer’s tour gives attendees plenty of time to network with peers, including opportunities to compare notes over dinner each night. On-board discussions led by tour guides on the buses will examine the relevance of each stop to the industry. In addition, wine tastings during the tour will incorporate a sampling of Northern California’s Wine Country, and there will be free time available to explore the breathtaking City by the Bay.

Registration 2pm-4pm
Opening Reception 4pm-6pm
Dinner on your own - enjoy the many restaurants in Union Square

Opening Reception
Mission Room at the Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel
Enjoy catching up with longtime friends and make new key connections during this GCA Tour-exclusive networking event. Industry legend, San Francisco’s own Ernest Wertheim, will be recognized for his myriad contributions to garden retailing. Wertheim is a principal of Wertheim, Van Der Ploeg, & Klemeyer, a firm internationally known for its garden center design, with clients in 40 states and nine countries. You'll gain new perspectives on your business, and the IGC industry as a whole, from this father of modern garden center design, who continues to travel the world, serving clients in the United States and Europe.

Breakfast 6:30am-7:45am
Buses Depart 8:00am
Scheduled Bus Return 4:45pm

Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, Richmond, CA
Flower power takes on a new meaning at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, where a fun, whimsical atmosphere and a devotion to flowers take precedence. The garden center specializes in rare and unusual annual and perennial plants grown on-site, including cottage garden heirlooms and hard-to-find California native wildflowers. Display gardens are changed frequently to inspire and motivate new and repeat customers. A play area and chickens keep children entertained while moms shop at Annie’s Annuals. Three family-friendly events each year, the Spring Planting Party, Mother’s Day Extravaganza and Fall Planting Party, draw customers and keep them coming back. During these popular events, visitors can participate in the fun by dressing up and wearing garden party attire or simply come as they are for the music, food, gardening demonstrations and raffles. Annie’s Annuals also maintains a mail order presence: Customers across the country can go online to order their favorites and even put plants that aren’t in stock on their “wish lists.”

Navlet’s Garden Centers, Danville, CA

When Navlet’s opened in Danville in 2007, it debuted two brand new concepts for the company with its location in the middle of a lifestyle shopping center and its first-ever greenhouse. The garden center and greenhouse were part of the original design of the shopping center, which also includes restaurants, a fitness studio, a clothing store and a realty office. Using much of the same store design from its Pleasant Hill location, Navlet’s tweaked the layout to accommodate the shopping center. Entrances and exits were improved upon, and giftware was given its own department to create a better shopping experience. As with all four of its East Bay locations, the Danville store offers classes that focus on trends in edible gardening. It caters to gardening novices as well with its Boot Camp for Beginning Gardeners in the spring. Be sure to ask about the greenhouse’s climate-controlled roof. Navlet’s Garden Centers ranks No. 60 in IGC Magazine’s IGC 100 report with $8.5 million in sales.

Orchard Nursery & Florist, Lafayette, CA
The displays at Orchard Nursery & Florist are an ever-changing mix of product from its gift shop, nursery, garden decor and pottery departments. The Lord & Burnhum glasshouse and original footprint designed by Ernest Wertheim create a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Changes throughout the garden center’s history, including a nearby highway addition, have moved the parking area and entrance to the back of the store and concealed most of the glasshouse. Handmade has a presence in the Lazy K House gift shop, a nearly 100-year-old home that showcases artisan jewelry, apparel and vintage finds. Among the garden center’s niche categories are a wide selection of Japanese maples, edibles, bulbs and roses, and Talavera pottery, not to mention painted recycled metal goats that are nearly impossible to keep in inventory due to high demand. To draw customers, Orchard frequently holds events, including classes, to connect with the community. Rather than rely solely on the management team for selling strategies, “triads” of staff at the garden center, ranked No. 71 in IGC Magazine’s IGC 100 report with $7.5 million in sales, are challenged to problem-solve and improve the quality of customer service. Ask them how it works here.

Armstrong Garden Centers, Dublin, CA
Armstrong Garden Centers designs its locations to be highly productive on small urban lots. The efficientlayout of its Dublin site features a variety of outdoor pottery along the perimeter of the store. Inside its barn-style building, customers can shop gifts,  houseplants and indoor pottery. With less than 1,000 square feet of storage and receiving space, Armstrong operates with no back-stock of products or plants. Some of the niche categories it counts among its SKUs are Ceramica Garcia, Designer Stone and jewelry by K&K Interiors. The tightly efficient use of space at this Dublin location is not to be missed - you’ll particularly want to note the use of vertical surfaces to display product. To drive sales, the store places an emphasis on increasing customer count and capturing e-mail addresses. It focuses on “customized” customer service, and increasing items per cart and average sale. Armstrong Garden Centers/Pike Nurseries leads the industry in sales, ranking No. 1 in IGC Magazine’s IGC 100 report with $138.5 million.

Alden Lane Nursery, Livermore, CA
Featuring GCA Wine-Tasting Networking Event A Wertheim, Van Der Ploeg, & Klemeyer master plan that includes French country architecture set among a  heritage oak grove sets this garden center apart at first sight. To showcase and protect the centuries-old trees, the garden center’s layout includes semi-permeable paving at the entry drive and around the store. The trees are such an integral part of Alden Lane, the store’s logo even includes a silhouette of one of the giant beauties. A circular configuration of the outdoor sales area is a unique way to guide customers into browsing the vast plant selection. Beyond the appeal of the store’s exterior, this garden center makes an impact with homey, residential touches inside, including cherry cabinets, an indoor/outdoor fireplace and a fireplace deck. The one-of-a-kind atmosphere created by the setting and staff at Alden Lane is mirrored in its fresh, ever-changing product mix. The store’s niche categories include speciality foods like olive oil, sweets, jams and sauces; hand and body lines like Upper Canada-Gardeners and Naked Bee; fragrances like Aromatique Seasonal Collections; wall art; clothing; kids gardening; water gardening; and more. The design of the receiving area is a must-see, as are the second-floor landing overlook, the bathrooms and the central fountain.

Breakfast 6:30am-7:45am
Buses Depart 8:00am
Scheduled Bus Return 9:00pm

Flora Grubb Gardens, San Francisco
Set in an industrial neighborhood in San Francisco, Flora Grubb Gardens leads by example when showingcustomers how to garden in the city. This urban-chic store uses vertical gardens planted up with succulents to help city dwellers beautify their tight spaces, and inspires with displays of plants, pottery and furniture that harmonize color and texture. Gathering spots throughout the nursery lead customers to linger and enjoy the view, which might include some of the garden center’s quirky and stylish garden art installations, like its must-see Edsel garden. The dilapidated 1950s Ford Edsel in this display, now planted up in fresh glory, is a remnant from the site's former life as an auto services lot. Flora Grubb’s garden boutique and Ritual Coffee bar beckon shoppers to stay longer to sip a hot beverage and browse gifts, children’s items, seeds, fertilizers, tools, books and more. In addition to its exceptional succulents, the garden center is known for its organically grown Cole Canyon vegetables and herbs, Fermob furniture, custom and handmade pottery lines and its own product inventions, such as the Thigmotrope Satellite vertical garden implement.

Bushnell Gardens Nursery, Home & Garden Shop, Granite Bay, CA
Gardening success is the open agenda at Bushnell Gardens, where most of the plants are tested before grown on-site. The garden center’s target demographic has changed over the years; it currently focuses on advanced gardeners and those with a deep appreciation of plants. Customers can come back time and time again to shop Bushnell’s not-to-be-missed home and gift shop and inspiring display gardens, and take in the sounds and sights in the property’s two aviaries. The garden center’s landscape division is well represented, too, with examples of the company’s sought-after work on display. Bushnell’s product assortment stands out with exclusives such as its iron creations, designed and built on-site, and Pott Omans outdoor ottomans. Rare and common plants, along with Keith Hamilton pottery from South Africa, give gardeners a unique perspective of what they can accomplish in their outdoor spaces. To make sure its product selection never becomes stagnant, Bushnell’s doesn’t fall in love with its inventory - one of its best practices is that all non-sellers must go. Ask them about it here.

High Hand Nursery, Loomis, CA

The tranquil ambiance at High Hand is credited to the nursery’s garden-like design, which helps customers picture the product in their own backyards. Active gardeners and “foodies” are the target demographic at this garden center, with two working greenhouses that remain stocked with ornamental plants, including rare Japanese maples. The greenhouses also supply edibles grown for the High Hand Café, which serves brunch, lunch and dinner in a glass-enclosed conservatory for a unique dining experience. You’ll want to take in the historic 1901 fruit packing shed that houses pottery, gift items and individual shops, including The Truckee Mountain Rug Shop and The Tin Thimble, a creative sewing and fiber arts shop. The fruit shed also houses the Wineries at High Hand, which offers a tasting room where customers can sample wines from two local artisanal wineries. In its wineries and shops, the garden center places an emphasis on items made locally, in addition to carrying many gift items made in the USA. The property’s historic building is powered by a state-of-the-art solar system. Check it out in person to see how it works.

Green Acres Nursery & Supply, Roseville, CA
Green Acres transformed its Roseville location from a dump, literally, into a retail garden center that adds value to its community. It recycled and revamped the space, which used to be a transfer station for the city dump. (The Roseville store’s first customer actually brought in a bag of trash!) Now, the location is home to a tranquil waterfall and pond, an indoor houseplant area, an outdoor patio with a diverse product mix, and more. With an emphasis on edibles, this friendly store serves its target demographic, homeowners with annual incomes of $75,000 or more, by offering expertise and quality plants at competitive prices. In addition to its broad plant selection, this stop showcases terrariums, fairy gardening, kids’ seed kits and tools, Mason bees and more. Green Acres, ranked No. 58 in IGC Magazine’s IGC 100 report with $8.8 million in sales, counts free community events that give back to loyal customers and local non-profits among the ingredients in its recipe for success. Be sure to check out the water-wise plant selection that addresses California’s frequent drought conditions.

Sloat Garden Center, Kentfield, CA
This Kentfield location was already established as a garden center when Sloat moved in back in 1992. Since then, Sloat, ranked No. 32 in IGC Magazine’s IGC 100 report with $16.2 million in sales, has put its stamp on the store by stocking it with the largest garden pottery selection in Marin County. This small-space garden center has found success with its pottery stack displayed by color, a merchandising strategy that’s grown pottery sales 10 percent each year since it was implemented. Custom planters, both indoor and outdoor, are a growth category. To go along with its popular containers, the Kentfield store gives local customers the plants they desire by purchasing its green goods independently. The sales floor, which features a peaked shade structure, was designed with flexibility in mind. No display is permanent, which allows room for change based on the seasons and the ebb and flow of business. Among the store’s best draws is its team of nursery professionals who focus on customer service. Sloat places an emphasis on hiring the right manager and right team with a positive attitude that will draw customers in. Say hello to them here!

Dinner in Sausalito
Whatever you're craving, you'll find it here, during this open evening of exploration in Sausalito, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Round out the day's excitement and make plans to network with fellow tour-goers over dinner at any one of the city's specialty restaurants, outdoor cafes and bistros, many with breathtaking water views of San Francisco across the bay. Sausalito’s world class dining, galleries and boutiques draw visitors from across the globe. For your convenience, the buses will drop off and pick up at a central location

Breakfast 6:30am-7:45am
Buses Depart 8:00am
Scheduled Bus Return 5:45pm

Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA
Examine the origins of computer technology, from the pioneering years through today, at the Mountain View’s Computer History Museum’s exhibit, “Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing.” Guests journey through 19 alcoves, each dedicated to a different aspect of computing. Multi-media displays showcase the back-stories, development drama, and astonishing breakthroughs of the gadgets, gurus and companies you love or love to hate. While taking in how computers have evolved through the years, you may also challenge a fellow tour-goer to a game of Pong or play Spacewar. “Going Places: A History of Silicon Valley,” an exhibit that lets museum visitors control large-scale five-panel surround screens, immerses visitors in a geographic tour highlighting the history of Silicon Valley on the Google Liquid Galaxy platform. Other interactive features at the museum have guests sitting inside a Google Street View car, riding a Street View trike and listening to behind the scenes stories from the Street View team.

Apple Headquarters, Cupertino, CA
Apple’s current headquarters allowed the company to centralize its operations from a variety of outlying rented office space locations in Cupertino and surrounding areas when it was built in 1993. The 850,000-square-foot main office complex features six buildings arranged in an oval and ringed by a road the company named "Infinite Loop.” The vast 32-acre campus, where innovations like the iPhone, iPod and iPad originated, includes spaces used to design and test new products. It’s reported that the secretive nature of the work makes getting a tour of the facility difficult. The growth of Apple over the past 20 years has led the company to outgrow this current location. In addition to its main campus, it operates out of a number of office spaces in the area, and it broke ground on a new 2.8-million-square-foot campus last year. The design of this new campus, under construction now and located about a mile east of this existing campus, includes a four-story circular building reminiscent of a flying saucer, scenic outdoor spaces and environmentally friendly features. Phase one of the project is expected to be complete in 2016, and the new building is expected to bring 12,000 Apple workers under one roof. The new Apple Campus 2 will not replace the Infinite Loop headquarters - the company will retain its first campus. Note: The buses will not stop here - tour-goers will get a look en route.

Almaden Valley Nursery, San Jose, CA

The limited indoor square footage at Almaden Valley Nursery’s building, a converted home, has challengedthe retailer to streamline its design. The layout successfully transitions customers from the gift shop, to the garden and to the chemicals within the confines of the small footprint. Since space is at a premium, Almaden Valley’s success depends on organization and cleanliness, from the merchandise on the floor to the overstock. During busy periods, checkout areas are half indoors and half outdoors to move customers in and out with their purchases. To keep these customers loyal, the garden center buys unique premium products not sold at other stores in its area, including its niche product categories like women’s accessories and multi-grafted fruit trees. Native water-wise plants are a constant at the nursery and one of the biggest growth departments. Outdoors, displays of 15-gallon trees are strategically placed to provide shade in the summer months. The recently added growing facility in back of the property is a must-see atthis San Jose store.

SummerWinds Nursery, Cupertino, CA
SummerWinds’ Cupertino store shows space-challenged customers what they can do in the smallest of areas with its branded Custom Creations container gardening services. Whether it’s a planter box, a wooden barrel, a washtub or one of the many colorful pieces of pottery the store carries, SummerWinds provides imaginative container gardening possibilities for even the smallest porch or patio. Custom Creations services include grab-and-go containers, custom designs based on plants the customer chooses, and do-it-yourself selections. Be sure to take in the outdoor patio vignette with furniture, statuary and water features; it shows customers how to include plant material in their outdoor spaces. To ensure the success of its customers’ gardens and outdoor spaces, SummerWinds - ranked No. 13 in IGC Magazine’s IGC 100 report with $29.8 million in sales - offers the services of a Garden Coach, who will make home visits to assess gardening challenges and suggest solutions. Some of the store’s best practices include “Daily Huddles” for employees and coordinated teamwork throughout the store.

Yamagami’s Nursery, Cupertino, CA
Yamagami’s Nursery caters to its Silicon Valley customers with paved walkways and display areas, covered shopping and informational signage on all plant material. Known for its large selection of seasonal vegetables and fruit trees, this family business makes a point to serve its ethnically diverse clientele by offering Asian, European and specialty fruits and vegetables like prunus ume and sansho. Make sure to check out the information center to see one of the ways the garden center makes educating its customers a priority. Year-round classes and events are also part of Yamagami’s ongoing instructional efforts. To help assure customers of success in the garden, the store’s website proclaims, “Our plant docs make house calls.” What started as a fruit stand in 1948 has grown into a successful business because the management has always emphasized education and product knowledge among its employees, listened to its customers and employees, and allowed the next generation in the family business the wiggle room to express and develop their style in the garden center, among other best practices.

Wegman’s Nursery, Redwood City, CA
Family-owned and operated since it opened in 1960, Wegman’s recently remodeled its store to make it more shopper-friendly. It now features a special area dedicated to giftware, houseplants and more, while its fertilizers and chemicals are housed in a separate building. The garden center grabs its share of the market by giving customers the “family feeling” they desire, as well as by stocking unique “local” gift items, a complete line of organics, and a vast selection of outdoor pottery and houseplants. In the spring, Wegman’s boasts a vast selection of vegetables - the edibles area is one you’ll want to make sure to check out during this stop. To further cater to its customers, the garden center provides delivery service seven days a week and offers home consultation services. A schedule of free seminars rounds out this customer-focused family business of more than 50 years.


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