Ruibal’s Plants of Texas was established in 1984 by Michael Ruibal, who began selling bedding plants out of a truck and a rented space at the Dallas Farmers Market. Today, the business has grown to include four retail centers and a thriving wholesale business.
“We started in retail, but couldn’t get the quality of product we needed,” says Matt Ruibal, Michael’s son and the vice president of growing operations. “That’s why we started our own growing operations.” Matt’s brother, Mark, is the vice president of sales and marketing at Ruibal’s.
Matt says the business now has more than 600,000 square feet of growing space under cover, most of which is used to produce plants for landscapers and maintenance companies in the Dallas area. While Ruibal’s also grows plants for its own retail operations, Matt estimates that 60 percent of Ruibal’s current business comes from its wholesale division. Right now, Matt says begonias, impatiens and geraniums — “anything with color,” as he puts it — are among the most popular plants with his customers.
According to Matt, the business has remained steady over the past two decades, even during the most recent financial crisis that negatively impacted many in the green industry. He attributes that to the company’s location in Dallas, a city he says wasn’t hit as hard as other parts of the country.
“It’s definitely picking back up. I mean, the thing with the market is the economy really hasn’t affected us as much as the rest of the country and has been a strong market pretty much all the way through,” he says. “I don’t know if there’s just more supplemental income here or what.”
Matt notes that the biggest challenges the business faces typically involve weather. In March, he says Dallas was hit by more than two straight weeks of rain, and that disrupted his normal growing schedule. Because Texas is normally sunny, Ruibal’s Plants only uses supplemental lighting on some plants — namely petunias — that need to have their days extended.
“There’s always going to be some sort of issue,” he says. “It’s just about dealing with it.”
When courting a new customer or working on solidifying a relationship with a current one, Ruibal’s ensures that the customer knows what it can offer them. To help a potential client know exactly who they could be working with, Matt says Ruibal’s gives tours of its growing facilities and/or retail centers. That way, the clientele can see the quality and availability of the plants firsthand. Ruibal’s also shares its insights into the Dallas consumer market so landscapers can purchase and use flowers and plants that will align with their customers’ wants.
“We ask them what they need and give them recommendations and advice so they can be successful in whatever they are planting,” Matt says. “I don’t want them to be a customer just for today — I want them to be a customer long-term. They know that when they call one of our stores, they can talk to me, or my brother Mike or my dad, Michael, and they can talk to a Ruibal about any problem they have or any issue. We’ve had customers for 25-plus years as a result.”
One other reason Matt cites for the business’ success is that their plants are grown for retail and not for wholesale — something his clientele in the Dallas area values. He says the result is plants that are grown to “pop” in someone’s yard just like they would on the shelf at a garden center.
“The quality has to be as high as it can be,” he says.