So how are we enjoying our “time off”? That’s probably the number one question we get asked in the dark, cold days of January. Our typical response is a little smile. Any business owner will tell you there is never really time off, which is so true. But this is also when we do the behind the scenes stuff that some people (myself included before I bought the greenhouse) don’t even think about.We’ve unloaded 16 pallets by hand in the last 2 days. There are more deliveries scheduled for next week, and the week after. We’ve also received giant rolls of tubing that will be new water lines for hanging baskets and containers in our farm greenhouse, and the back greenhouse in town.
My dear husband is the water line guy, although I and an employee or two will probably put in some time. There is a special little tool called a punch tool for poking holes in tubing for drip lines (those hanging lines that water all the hanging baskets). Your hands are never quite the same after punching 500+ holes in thick water line tubing, let me tell you! And standing on a table reaching over head to measure and put in lines is a great shoulder workout. Getting a greenhouse ready for spring is better than a gym membership.
I’m watching the snow fly out the window, thankful that this year’s soil delivery is in the books. It’s one of the single most stressful days of the year for me! Perhaps that’s because the first 2 years of soil delivery were ridiculous. I’ll give you the short versions…
The first year, we were total newbies, no idea how all of this worked. We were told to rent a bobcat, that the truck was never late, and it would take a couple hours. So when the delivery was scheduled for early morning on the same day our son’s kindergarten Christmas program at West Liberty-Salem, we didn’t think about it being a conflict (foreshadowing here). Fast forward a good 4 hours of sitting in a cold greenhouse with nothing to do, repeated calls to the trucking company promising the shipment was somewhere between Cincinnati and West Liberty, and finally the truck shows up. I try to block out the rest of that day, but I have one of those indelible pictures in my head, the kind that you can recall on a seconds notice no matter where you are, of my husband driving this tiny bobcat up to thesemi-truck full of what seemed like 20 ft. pallets of soil. He had experience driving bobcats and forklifts, and assured me it would be no problem. The picture in my head is when he got the first pallet on the forks, backed away, and the bobcat promptly tipped forward and 45 bags of soil spilled and broke. It only got better from there. Let’s just say there were a lot of busted bags of soil, leaving a strange truck driver with rental equipment while we went to a Christmas program we couldn’t miss, flashing police lights on 68 where the helpful truck driver had dumped another pallet of soil while we were gone, a broken bobcat, and maybe some tears.
The next year I was determined that it would be a better experience. I made arrangements for more help, and let the shipping company know the delivery had to be on time because I had rental equipment and the help for one day. This story includes the promised truck being a full day late, then using the wrong address, then attempting to turn around behind King’s Feed because the truck wouldn’t make it under the train tracks, the driver burying the semi-truck up to its front axle in the grass at King’s Feed (because why wouldn’t you go through the grass with tons of soil on your truck after a torrential rain the night before?). Luckily, the guys (and gal) at King’s are super nice and were willing to help us out. They ended up unloading everything there, and loading it back on our trucks to take to the greenhouses.
Last year I decided to reach out to our friends at West Liberty Building & Supply Ltd.. With their help, everything went much smoother, and this year, year 4 of soil delivery, we got the job done with no stories to tell, or too many aches and pains to deal with.
The moral of this story is that learning how to run a business takes patience, experience, and good friends and fellow businesses that will go out of their way to support you. Even when it seems like drudgery getting everything fixed and ready to go in January, the light is starting to appear at the end of the tunnel. Final orders are being placed, and plant shipments will be here in just about a month. I can hardly wait to get my hands in all that dirt!
So on to the seasonal greenhouse biz in the off-season…first of all, no, we don’t sit around with our feet up waiting for spring to come. I had zero idea that for a greenhouse to be ready to go in spring (or really the end of winter, when planting starts), you have to get all your ducks in a row in July.
All of this adds up to hours and hours of research, looking at numbers (again, and again, and again), agonizing over decisions about what I can fit in the growing space and what it’s time to move away from. Running a small business is no joke, and I am thankful that I have the time in the summer to give these details my full attention. Then come August, it’s time to Order! All the plants we will grow in the spring are ordered by the time it’s time for kids to go back to school, and all the hard goods (the pots, the hoses, the gloves, etc.) are ordered by the time the leaves start to change colors. In a fun coincidence, this is also when all the holiday orders are due; I’m ordering geraniums in the morning, and picking out the right Christmas wreaths in the afternoon! Although it’s a bit stressful making all of these decisions, as the owner (and a control freak) I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s my business, so it had better be my booty on the line when it comes down to it!
So it’s April and it’s snowing, as I’m sure you’re all very well aware. Like many of you, I’m itching to get outside. My lawn needs rolled and mowed. I have a few shrubs and trees I’d like to put in the ground. The calendar tells me it’s time to be working outdoors or at least walking through the woods looking for mushrooms. BUT THIS WEATHER!
SPRING SEASON HOURS
March-April: M-Sat. 9a-6p, Sun. 12p-5p
May: M-Sat. 9a-7p, Sun. 12p-5p
Memorial Day: 10a-4p
After Memorial Day: M-Sat. 9a-5p, Sun. 12p-5p
Last Day open for season: June 17
Alycia and Matt Brehm purchased Hillside Greenhouse in 2016, and are proud to carry on a long tradition. There has been a greenhouse business at this location (302 Zanesfield Road, West Liberty, Ohio) for over 100 years!
In 2015, Alycia made a career change from teaching high school biology to make her life growing and selling plants. Matt and Alycia live near West Liberty where Matt and his father also have a fish farm that raises yellow perch.
Matt and Alycia have two growing boys, and are excited to be a part of the growing small business community in West Liberty!
What's Growing On!
Yes, it's pretty corny.
Wow, first blog post. What to say?
Let's start from the beginning. I'll spare you the boring details, but Alycia needed a career change and while shopping for plants one spring, I casually mentioned she should ask if the greenhouse was still for sale. Within weeks she was beginning arrangements for the purchase. My head is still spinning. I had some retail management experience, Alycia had some greenhouse experience, we both have biology backgrounds, surely this would work out! Sorry, no cute story about one of us dreaming our entire lives of owning a greenhouse business. This was simply the right opportunity at the right time and we jumped on it! It's working out!
We've learned a lot over the past two years. Mostly we've learned that even the people that have been in the greenhouse business their entire lives don't always get everything just right, so it makes us not feel so bad about the mistakes we make now and then.
We've learned that a lot of the initial ideas and fun things we wanted to change and do with the business have to go to the back burner for a while. There is a ton of maintenance and rebuilding to be done, and our pockets are only so deep.
None the less, we're trying new things! Can you believe last Christmas season was the first time anyone tried to sell Christmas trees here? We're excited to be open for Christmas again this year and we hope you'll consider us for all of your wreaths, garland and beautiful, fragrant, cut trees!
If you're reading this, you may have noticed our new website, because you're on it! Berry Digital Solutions, LLC has been great to work with. They're just one of the great local business that we've worked with over the past two years to help us keep the place going.
This first blog has probably gone on long enough. Check in here from time to time to get info about what's going on at the greenhouse, what's new, maybe some tips and techniques. Who knows what you'll learn? We certainly have been learning, and it's fun to share with people.
Hillside Greenhouse is located at 302 Zanesfield Rd. in West Liberty, OH, directly across from Marie's Candies. Alycia and Matt Brehm purchased Hillside Greenhouse in 2016, and are proud to carry on a long tradition. There has been a greenhouse business at this location for over 100 years ! In 2015 Alycia made a career change from teaching high school biology to make her life growing and selling plants. They live near West Liberty where Matt and his father also have a fish farm that raises yellow perch. They have two growing boys, and are excited to be a part of the growing small business community in West Liberty!