Costa buys Delray, plus Plantscape Awards, water research, and a tropical young retailer

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News and Inspiration from the world of foliage and tropical plants GrowerTalks MagazineGreen Profit Magazine

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Debbie Hamrick Subscribe
Tropical Topics
Orchid-Loving Young Retailer
Int'l Plantscape Awards
Water Quality Survey
Costa Buys Delray Plants

An Orchid-Loving Young Retailer

One of the tropical industry’s own has been selected as one of three finalists for the Green Profit/Dümmen Orange Young Retailer Award! As marketing manager of Bird’s Botanicals in Kansas City, Missouri, Vashti Kern has plenty of experience with orchids, succulents, carnivorous plants—and touring folks through Bird’s Botanicals “orchid cave!” It’s really an underground warehouse of sorts, but the image that comes to mind with the words “orchid cave” is pretty cool.

The retailers we select from the pool of nominees must illustrate just how creative they can be. In Vashti’s case there were several, but I want to mention one in particular. She developed an orchid leasing program through which customers lease 10 orchids for a month for $250. It’s a floral package that would work extremely well for offices, restaurants, spas and the like—think of it as an alternative to a fresh floral bouquet, except you get your plants back! At the close of that month those orchids can then be sold at a discount at their booth in the local farmers market. Selling a product twice or more—love it!

Congratulations go out to the other two Young Retailer Award Finalists, Stephanie Genrich of Genrich’s Garden Center in Rochester, New York, and Andrea Bickley Snlegrove of Wingard’s Market in Lexington, South Carolina. The winner will be announced at Cultivate’17 in Columbus, Ohio, in July.

Back to Vashti for a moment: She’s attending the 72nd Santa Barbara International Orchid Show this weekend. Why didn’t I know about that? Anyone else attending? If so, snap a few pics, take a few notes on what you're “taking home” from the show, and I’ll include it in the next Tropical Topics!


Speaking of Cultivate’17, AmericanHort has developed a new program designed for young industry folks like Vashti, and it will make its debut at this summer’s Cultivate’17, happening July 15-18 in Columbus, Ohio. The program was developed specifically for emerging professionals to help them build skills necessary for success as they begin what will hopefully be a long career within the horticulture industry.

Developed by academics and members of AmericanHort’s GenNext Community, the CareerUP Workshop and Inspiration Series will help up-and-comers build skills in “high-stakes communications”—i.e. dialogs with customers, co-workers, company leaders and the like. A “TED Talk” style series of case studies by industry pros is also on the agenda, with their personal stories providing not just inspiration but also assurance in the communications skills they’ve learned.

The CareerUP program takes place on Saturday, July 15, and it’s a great way to kick off the Cultivate’17 experience. Sign up yourself OR a young person in your organization.

By the way, Cultivate’17 registration is now open! Sign up folks in your organization HERE.

International Plantscape Awards Deadline Approaches

Also taking place at Cultivate’17 is the recognition of those receiving the 2017 International Plantscape Awards. But first … you need to apply!

The International Plantscape Awards recognize excellence of individuals and firms within the interiorscape community. Some past winners include John Mini Distinctive Landscapes, Ambius, and Cityscapes, among others. Judged on their own merit and not against one another’s work, the awards program not only is a point of pride, but a way to learn more about your company as you go through the gathering process.

Deadline for applying for this year’s International Plantscape Awards is April 3. Learn more about the awards and how to apply HERE. Get on it!

Water Quality Research Survey

In addition to putting on the largest horticulture trade show in the country, AmericanHort is elbow-deep into both research and legislative issues that impact our industry. One of the most pertinent issues in horticulture (and all of agriculture) is water and water quality.

A national group of researchers was awarded by the USDA NIFA a 5-year, multi-million dollar grant to encourage the use of alternative water sources in nursery and floriculture production. Their research areas include nutrient, pathogen, and pesticide fate in recycled water before and after treatment. One of the project’s objectives is to help growers make decisions about irrigation water recycling by providing cost analyses and creating site-specific guidelines.

But they need your input! How do you, a grower, make your decisions? Through this 15-minute SURVEY they hope to determine exactly that, so they can create a decision-support system that you’ll actually use.

Go ahead, take the survey. It’s your way of giving back a valuable service to your industry.

Costa Buys Delray Plants

Thanks to my boss and Acres Online editor Chris Beytes for the following report on a very topical Tropical Topics item.

It happened quickly, in just a few weeks: Delray Plants owners Ed Koornneef and his brother-in-law Randy Gilde have sold the family business to Costa Farms. Why? Succession planning, Randy told me via phone on Monday.

“Just like Dan and Jerry,” said Randy. “You just wrote an article on them [buying De Jong’s Greenhouses]? Same thing. The Bible says there’s a time for everything … this is earlier than mine and Ed’s succession plan [Ed is 60, Randy 57]. But selling one day was always in the options for the future.”

Ed has no children in the business, which was started by his father, Jake, and a couple of partners in Delray Beach, Florida, in 1968. (He later bought out the partners.) Randy’s daughter works in the company’s accounting department, but she has no interest in eventually taking over the business.

“When we voted on this offer, she was all in favor of it,” Randy says. “She said, ‘I’m not going to run this big farm.’

“This was a great opportunity, so we took it,” he continued. “I think it’s going to be good for our employees long-term, which is always important to me—taking care of your people. And Costa’s a good company. They take care of their people, too. That was a win.”

Why did Costa want Delray?

While the deal went down in just the past three weeks, casual discussions have been going on for years, Randy says. Every year at the TPIE show, someone from the Costa family would ask Randy, “How’s it going?” and say, “Keep us in mind.” Costa was surprised when Randy called and wanted to talk.

I called Jose “Joche” Smith, CEO of Costa, to find out more. His answer to the “why” question was two-fold. First, to gain new customers. Delray has some big box retailers and territory that Costa doesn’t serve. Second, to turn a competitor into a partner.

“We’ve been competing with them since way before I got here,” he says of Delray. “But we’ve had a good relationship, we’ve always respected those guys … there are actually a few people on their team that used to work here. So we’ve been friendly competitors. … We’ve never had any serious conversations about doing something like this, but we had made it clear … that if there was any interest in putting the companies together, that we would love to talk about it.”

Joche says acquisitions like this bring other synergies and benefits. Like Delray’s business, for example.

“Their business is a couple years ahead of our business,” he says. “We had just sort of kicked off that initiative [at Costa], hired a general manager. We’re meeting with their folks today, and that’s absolutely jump-starting our program.”

That’s a good illustration of how Costa Farms approaches all its acquisitions, whether Layman, Engelmann’s or Delray.

“We don’t ever go into one of these deals and think we’re going to do it all the Costa way,” Joche says. “We do go in and share best practices and come out a better, stronger company.”

As for the short-term? The deal is scheduled to close at the end of this week. Joche say it’s “do no harm” going into spring, then work on the transition this summer. He’s putting Bert Martinez in as general manager of Costa Delray, as the business will be known internally. Bert, a long-time Costa employee, has proven his expertise at managing these acquisitions, most recently with the Engelmann transition. Jesus Gonzales will take over the Costa Engelmann GM position.

Credits Joche, “It’s because of guys like Bert and Jesus that we’re able to do these things.”

Most staff will be retained, as well. “Every time we’ve done deals like this, there are so many people in the organization that end up having a bigger role. We learn a lot from the people that are there. They help us grow the business.”

As for the former owners, they won’t be sailing off into the Florida sunset quite yet. Both have agreed to stay on through the end of the year. After that? Don’t be surprised if Randy stays on.

“This is what I’ve done my entire life, except for four years in the Air Force,” he says of the horticulture industry.

Joche would be thrilled.

“Frankly, if they want to stay, and they’re having a good time, we would love for them to be part of the team longer-term.”

— Chris Beytes


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Ellen Wells
Green Profit

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