By Mina Williams Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — When Emery Rhodes closed Emery’s Garden last November, four longtime employees found themselves out of work.
The six-acre garden center at 2829 164th St. SW had been in business since 1997. Amy Tullis served as the manager for 15 years. Charlie Cessna, Holli Schippers and Debra Jordan-Smith each worked there as plant and landscape experts for more than 10 years.
“The idea of opening our own spot was born because we had lost our jobs. We didn’t want to accept it,” said Tullis, who has a marketing and graphic design background. “When you love the environment you work, it is hard to leave. Where else, but a nursery, can you be outdoors part of the day and be in touch with the seasons. That made sitting in an office all day hard.”
Rhodes accepted the women’s offer of leasing two acres, including greenhouses, and they started honing their business plan for the Plant Shack. The property remains for sale.
The group’s largest departure from the classic garden center business model is in their seasonal style of operation. The Plant Shack is open as a “pop-up” spot in the location of the former Emery’s Garden in Lynnwood. It will only be open during the prime gardening season, April through mid-July.
“We evaluated gardening trends, which have changed a lot with the current economic conditions,” Tullis said. “People have smaller yards and most local yards have mature trees and shrubs. What people are looking for is a pop of color.”
Maintaining tight controls on inventory is one way the group feels they can optimize profits. Plant Shack will carry only annual and perennial bedding plants, vegetable starts and herbs from local growers. Additionally, organic soils, compost and fertilizers, plus containers, will be offered. They will not carry shrubbery, trees or hardscaping materials.
Putting this model into motion was not foreign to Tullis, who grew up in New York on Long Island, where the notion of seasonal fruit and vegetable stands is common.
“Offering goods when they are at their best makes a lot of sense,” Tullis said.
The added bonus is that the group would not maintain the highly seasonal business over a 12-month period and have to see it through the dead of winter. Leasing also will remove any need to make upgrades to the property.
Plans are to have classes on vegetable gardening, featuring the chemical-free and organic plants Plant Shack offers.
They have also called former Emery’s Garden employees to work part time as cashiers and specialists. Longtime Emery’s employee Joni Harrison has agreed to spearhead the tomato section of the Plant Shack.
“We expect customers to see familiar faces,” Tullis said.
Plant Shack items are priced lower than the same items that had been offered at Emery’s Garden because of their low overhead, Tullis said. Containers will be available pre-planted and designed to order.
As a pop-up store, there is no guarantee that the same location will be available next season.
“I have a feeling that we will return next year,” Tullis said. “At this location or at another. First we have to see where the profitability is. Right now the buildings are well stocked and looking good.”
Address: 2829 164th St. SW, Lynnwood