Marilyn Davis, left, and Cheryl Pelkey
Photo courtesy of Marilyn Davis

The Brothers Greenhouses, located west of Seattle in Port Orchard, Washington, is a grower-retailer that sells everything from standard annuals and perennials to holiday plants, houseplants and succulents. Outside of a 30,000-square-foot greenhouse, the business is also home to a replica of a Hobbit House from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series that co-owners Marilyn Davis and Cheryl Pelkey built in 2014. 

Below, Davis talks about holiday plant sales, why Mother’s Day is the business’ Christmas and the impact the Hobbit’s Hole has on sales. 

Greenhouse Management: In recent years, what have been popular holiday plants with your customers and where do you see them heading this season?

Marilyn Davis: Of course poinsettias. But leaving that aside, it’s the Christmas cactus and cyclamen that are the top contenders for the things people want. I don’t know if they are looking for something different than a poinsettia; they just want those specific products. Up here in this part of the world where we are at, poinsettias can be a problem because it’s cold out. If it’s in a room that isn’t well heated or drafty, the cyclamen and the Christmas cactus are just a better fit. I don’t know if that’s exactly why people want [Christmas cactus and cyclamen]. They could just be tired of poinsettias. As for colors, we have to have all of the colors in here, but they end up just buying red and white [laughs]. 

GM: How does the holiday season compare for you business-wise with other busy parts of the year? And how do you approach pricing? 

MD: So we are pretty seasonal and Mother’s Day is our Christmas. [The holiday season] is not a huge deal here. I can’t put a whole lot of effort into Christmas money-wise. We can get snowstorms and that’s it — it ends any business. It snows up here between Thanksgiving and Christmas and we get nobody here. We could have a beautiful assortment of plants and it’s just a gamble — a horrible gamble — because of weather. It’s just a little bit of our business. 

We aren’t in a metropolitan area. We’re in a standalone greenhouse facility with no other stores around us. We get a lot of traffic by us on the roads, but if we get weird weather patterns, it stops all customers from coming in. It really limits what we grow. We always struggle with [pricing]. It’s a struggle. We can’t just lose money to move plants — there’s no logic or sense to that. We just have to be in the ballpark of what other people have, in all honestly. If it seems like I can’t be in that [and] I get priced out of it, I don’t go there. 

GM: How does having the Hobbit’s Hole help draw in customers? 

MD: It’s not the main reason people come, but it’s brought in a lot of people. It’s a very simple little attraction and we keep it accessible. But it’s brought in people that will buy one or two little things, take photos in it. It’s not our entire sales pitch, but everything adds up.