While Topeka, Kansas, isn’t usually seen as a growth market, Dave Jackson says Jackson’s Greenhouse & Garden Center has found success. The operation grows everything it sells from annuals to perennials to fruit trees and shrubs for customers in about a 50-mile radius.
“This population hasn’t changed since I started in 1970,” says Jackson, who owns and operates the business with his wife The only way we’ve grown in everybody else has gone out of business. The business model I’ve chosen has not been proven to be all that successful over here for many. But that’s the deal.”
Jackson’s priority is updating his 1922 ridge and furrow Lord & Burnham greenhouse with sash bars and glass. The greenhouse still has the original ventilator system — 21-inch frames on either side that raise and lower.
A 50- by 40- foot portion of the greenhouse is going to be converted to become part of the garden store as the IGC has expanded to offer more products. The plan is to remove the Lexan polycarbonate and replace it with a steel roof with skylights. They’ll also be adding air conditioning for shoppers’ comfort.
For the rest of the 40-foot greenhouses, he’s planning to install vents that open straight up from mid-purlin. “They’re going to open like a bar room door,” Jackson says.
Jackson wants to begin construction as soon as possible once sales have slowed down a bit. “This has been an amazing spring,” Jackson says, noting that sales are up 60% from last year. “With this COVID virus, everyone is working around the house and doing things that they’ve been putting off for years.”
Luckily, Jackson’s Greenhouse grows their own tomato and pepper plants. So when vegetable plants were flying off the shelves, they were able to just keep growing more. “When we got low on something, we put in another crop. So consequently, we’re the only ones with tomatoes and peppers.”
Jackson specializes in various kinds of perennials as well and says his favorite thing to do is grow as many varieties as he can. “There’s short-run productions and lots of different perennials. We’ve got stuff that nobody even dreams of,” Jackson says.
If possible, he’s planning to build a 140 by 150 structure to make room for expanding segments of the greenhouse. First, Jackson says the company needs more space for planting hanging baskets and pots. Beginning in February and March, customers will bring inn their planters, tell employees what they want and pay in advance. The week after Mother’s Day, customers will come back for their finished containers. “That saves them 30 to 40% over what they would pay if they we rebuying new pots every year,” Jackson says. “And then they don’t have to wait until after frost and wait for another two months for it to be beautiful.”
He estimates the company plants more than 1,000 annually.
The company also needs more room for fundraisers. Each year, they’ll grow several thousand 12-inch patio pots, geraniums and hanging baskets. “It’s a great fundraiser because they go out in February or March and take the orders and collect the money, and then we grow the product.”
Including all of the updates and upgrades, Jackson is looking at spending between $75,000 and $125,000, but Jackson says that’s a small price to pay.
“For the update in the existing greenhouse, it’s going to certainly make it cooler in the summer and more habitable, which will improve our summer quality of annuals. They won’t be so baked,” he says. “Since we’re growing and people seem to plant annuals all the way through July.”
The upgrade should help with efficiency of production as well with more space to grow and less need to shift plants around.
“And I guess the real reason we are having to do this is we’re growing our own fruit trees now, and we’re growing our Proven Winners shrubs. You can’t get the new varieties from wholesale nurseries. I love having different things and all of the new stuff, so we have to grow own own.”