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Amanda Ryder Successful operator profile: Open for Business

Scott’s Nursery rebuilds after the fire

Written by Amanda Ryder   
On Aug. 17, the staff and family of Scott’s Nursery Ltd. in Lincoln, N.B., watched in horror as the garden centre, which had been in operation since 1928, was engulfed in flames. The blaze drew 26 fire departments, over 350 fireman and 11 other emergency groups on one of the hottest days of the summer, and spread out over the operation’s six-acre span. It was the hottest and fastest fire that the local fire chief had ever witnessed.

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At a Glance:Company Name: Scott’s Nursery Ltd. Location: Lincoln, N.B. Owner: James O. Scott, president, and George A. Scott, vice president Years in Operation: 82 Website: www.scottsnursery.nb.ca
For the Scott family, who, over three generations, have been at the helm of the operation, it was undoubtedly a very difficult day. The total damage was pegged at $1 million. Fortunately, no one was injured in the fire, including the centre’s two resident iguanas and cat, Oliver.

According to fire inspectors, the fire was a dust explosion that originated in the nursery’s soil room, stemming from a small pile of fine dust, a common occurrence in grain mills and coalmines. It damaged the lunchroom and office buildings, the hydroponics store, the warehouseing area, two greenhouses, and the newer production houses, and cut into about half of the retail garden centre area.

Jenny Scott, hydroponics manager at Scott’s Nursery, says the firemen did an incredible job in saving the administrative building, which housed the main computer systems as well as the back greenhouses. The nursery’s mum crop was also recovered as a result of quick actions by staff.

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(Back row, from left) Jim Scott, George Scott, Rodney Scott; (front row, from left) Debbie Couturier, Jenny Scott, Jeanette Scott, Jason Scott, Colton Scott and Carmen Caulfield. The Scott’s family prides itself on selection and service.
On the positive side, the fire helped cement how much the community valued the long-standing business and reaffirmed great relationships with suppliers. “We had amazing support from the local community,” says Scott. “The Red Cross was here cooking for us and our customers and neighbours were bringing us food and doing what they could. In some instances, this generosity came from across Canada with acts of kindness and offers of assistance. It was amazing how people came together to help us out.”

While this marks the most devastating event to hit Scott’s Nursery, the operation is no stranger to the elements. Located on the bank of the St. John River, the garden centre has also battled spring floods, including one last March, and has endured several ice storms, including one in 2003. Despite these challenges, the garden centre has built a fiercely loyal customer base that’s been shopping with them for more than 80 years.

Eight months have passed since the fire and Scott says the centre is busy rebuilding and preparing for a grand reopening this spring. In the meantime, customers have still had access to the garden centre – as soon as it was safe to do so, Scott’s Nursery reopened after the fire, allowing people to shop in the unaffected areas. The damaged areas have been torn down, and the owners decided to re-level the operation. “We came up a little bit higher because of previous years’ flooding,” says Scott. “We had to design a new layout for what we lost. We weren’t able to rebuild the way everything was and we thought we’d take the opportunity to make things logistically better with the new layout.” When the work is done, the result will be a more efficient operation and an expanded garden centre area.

The entire operation is made up of three parts – a retail garden centre, a wholesale nursery and a flower shop. When it comes to the businesses’ product groupings, Scott’s Nursery provides shoppers with a large selection of perennials, annuals, trees, shrubs, bulk soils and mulches, fertilizers, hard goods, tools, pottery, statuary and a large hydroponics supply store. Scott’s grows almost all of its own bedding plants and annuals. The ability to provide such a vast selection is something the garden centre takes pride in. “Very few businesses can boast of being a florist, a garden centre, a greenhouse, a tree nursery, a source for flowering and tropical plants and have a modern supply of hydroponics,” says Scott.

One of the things the garden centre has become best known for is its planter refill program. Customers can drop off an empty pot and Scott’s Nursery will create a personalized container garden. “They give us an idea of what they want and we specialty plant for them,” says Scott. This is a practice they’ve been doing for more than 30 years, and she says some pots get to look very familiar. “We’ve certainly outdone some of the old planters,” she says with a laugh. Another popular product is the garden centre’s moss basket, made with real moss from the woods, with plants and flowers planted through it.

Off season, Scott’s Nursery employs approximately 40 people and this number expands to 140 staff members at the peak season. To train new seasonal staff, Scott says they team up with their local industry association, which hosts a training session for new staff in the spring. Nearby independents send a few new members each year and the association co-ordinates a date for all of them to come together. The garden centre also depends on long-term staff members to help out the new set. “Most of our staff are very keen gardeners and they do a lot of their own trials and try to figure things out. We spend a lot of time developing relationships with our customers and they become friends with staff,” says Scott. The centre’s customer base varies and Scott says she sees a number of different demographics come through their doors. “I’m thinking the 30- to 50-year-old range is probably our main clientele. These customers are trying to stay more active and are doing more gardening than they used to.” The business offers seniors a 10 per cent shopping discount and they also extend this to military personnel and their families. The community of Lincoln is home to a number of military families and Scott’s Nursery provides this discount to show its appreciation.

The garden centre advertises in local newspapers, on television and radio, and is online with the Scott’s Nursery website. Scott’s dad, George Scott, hosts a weekly radio show on CBC every week through the spring. “It’s a call-in show and that’s been a big hit,” says Scott. Another effective way to get their business name out has been to host children’s tours. Area schools will bring classes to Scott’s Nursery and the staff takes the groups around the grounds and teaches them about gardening.

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When asked what feedback they hear most from customers, Scott cites an appreciation for the centre’s product selection and service. “We make every effort to get things that people are looking for. We try to source out a lot of different things that maybe not everyone is able to do. We deal with a lot of suppliers, so sometimes we are able to find unusual things that are hard to get other places,” says Scott.

With this flexible attitude, and a determination to overcome whatever nature throws its way, Scott’s Nursery is a business that’s sure to enjoy many more years to come.


To see more pictures from Scott’s Nursery, visit www.canadiangardencentre.ca .
 
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