Spring into All In Bloom
Spring Into All In Bloom Garden Center Offers Year Round Options! By Kass Fincher Business partners Kim Everhart and Tina York live in Oak Island and operate All In Bloom Garden Center and Landscapes on Howe Street downtown in Southport. They visited with me recently during the winter break and talked about their plans for 2018.
You just opened in September last year; how are things going? “Wonderful, we have been very blessed, we really have! Southport and Oak Island have been very good to us. We’ve found a niche here and it seems to be working really well for us. We each have our strengths and we complement each other. Kim runs the landscaping side; Tina runs the retail side.” Is this a new venture for you or have you been in this business in the past? “We’ve been in the garden center business for awhile. We moved here five years ago from Asheboro. Once here, we worked for Bridgers Garden Center. After they closed, Kim went to manage a local garden center here and worked there for about three seasons. Tina worked for several farmers’ markets – including Maters and Taters and Summerlin Farms. This past year, we just figured it was as good a time as any to take that leap of faith and go for it, and we’ve been very blessed.” What’s different about your past experiences and what you’re offering here now? “We learned from those past experiences and now we bring our knowledge to this. You can come here with questions and we’ll give you answers. We really try to focus on customer service and teaching our customers the best plans for their garden, lawn maintenance, whatever they need.” And that knowledge creates loyalty with your customers, I would think? “Yes we think so. We’re developing a very loyal customer base. And we appreciate that so much. We can’t compete with the box stores on price but what we can give you is a better product, knowledge, and really, really good customer service.” What is your service area? “We’ll go as far as Leland, Shallotte, Ocean Isle. We do business in Bald Head too. We like to go wherever our clients need us.” I see your signs all over town. Is landscaping a big part of what you do? “Yes, it’s a large part and we’ve been very blessed on that aspect too. We had several jobs in January and February, and it’s really unheard of in the landscaping industry to be working in the wintertime. We do all aspects of landscaping – from design to installation and maintaining those properties too.” So what would you say are your primary products and services? “Landscaping is at least half of what we do. Of course we’ve not been here a year yet. We have nothing to gauge by except our pumpkin patch last fall. If our pumpkin patch is any indication of what our spring is going to be like, we’ll be killing it. Tina will need more than four staff here to help out. The pumpkin patch was phenomenal – we sold over 3000 pumpkins. It was so much fun – the kids and even the adults got excited. Everybody loves fall and the pumpkins.” How many staff work with you? “We have a landscaping crew of five men. Tina will have a staff of four working at the retail store. We had just returned from a gift mart trade show in Atlanta, and we have lots of new garden and yard art items for the store – unique things you won’t find anywhere else. How do you think the cold weather we had this year will affect your business? “Our bitter cold snaps were tough. People will probably lose some plants and have to replant. On the Lantana, you should check on what variety it is. If it’s the New Gold or Chapel Hill variety, you might get it back. But the only true Lantana perennial is Miss Huff – even with this bitter weather, though, it might have gotten hurt.” What plants will you offer in the spring? “The whole lot will be covered – annuals, perennials,shrubs, trees. We’ll have a lot of native plants too. We’re a full service garden center – and lots of unique yard art that nobody else here will have.” What challenges have you run into so far? “Actually, running out of space is a challenge. We want to do so much. We do have a good amount of space outside but we’re limited inside. Finding good help is a challenge too – every small business is challenged with finding good, dependable help. Any people with plant knowledge out there, please come to see us!” Do you have any funny stories, things that have gone awry? “Moving this building here was kind of crazy. It was a prefab, empty shell built to our specifications by Leonard Utility Buildings in Wilmington. They brought it down on a truck in August; the truck got stuck up out out here on the lot maybe four or five times. What they thought was going to take about an hour took about half a day to finally get this building in place. The building was precariously hanging halfway on the truck and halfway off; we didn’t know how we were going to do this. We laugh about it now – but it wasn’t so funny then.” The beaded wood on the walls and ceiling inside the store is unique. Where did you get that? “It’s from an old house in Castle Hayne that was built in the late 1800s. The lady lived there until she was over 100 years old. A friend of mine – the owner of North Carolina Plantation Antiques – found it for us. The different colors are because the wood came from different rooms – her den, her bedroom, her kitchen. And the wood on the floor is from a tobacco barn in Surry County.” What was your vision in creating the interior space? “We wanted people to walk into the store and not notice how small the building is, but to say, ‘Oh my God this is very cool.’ It’s nice to reclaim things and find new uses for them that add a creative touch.” What are your plans on plant offerings – do you plan to offer anything different from others? “Our main thing is to have plants out here that will do well in our coastal environment. We try to focus on what the customer is going to buy that he or she can take home and not worry about it – something that will really thrive for them. We both know what works in our climate and what doesn’t. There are a lot of elements here that people don’t even think of – salt air, wind, sand. The humidity here is rough on plants. We used to have customers come to us at the other garden center and say ‘I want a lilac bush.’ And I would always tell them that they just won’t make it here because of the humidity. The heat won’t hurt them – it’s the humidity that does it. Same thing with peonies – people want them all the time; they don’t do well here, they struggle.” What are the best plants you would recommend in your designs? “There are a lot of plants that do well here. Everybody loves hydrangeas – they do well with the right varieties. They’re nostalgic favorites, reminding us of grandma’s garden. Of course the drift roses and knock-outs also do fantastic here, while standard roses cannot – they get disease ridden. We’ll have tons of perennials that will do well here, and evergreens as well. It’s important when you do a design to consider all the seasons. When we go in and design a landscape, we know you have to do more than just put in that ‘wow factor,’ because in the wintertime the customer will have nothing. You’ve got to do a mix with evergreens too.” What plans do you have to enhance your business? “We are still very new. We want to build relationships with realtors and builders for referrals this spring. We’re very excited about our potential – we have great visibility and we hope to stay here quite awhile.” It’s clear that Kim and Tina are committed and know their stuff – I’m sure they are here to stay. The pumpkin patch was just the beginning. All In Bloom will bring their creative touch to our area and make Southport and surrounding area gardens even more beautiful.