The East Pierre Landscape and Garden Center hosts at least one event each month during its season – which it has greatly expanded past just the tomato-planting season.
Photo courtesy of East Pierre Landscape and Garden Center

by Courtney Llewellyn

It’s October. The requisite autumn mums are almost all sold out. The season is wrapping up. How do you ensure you keep people coming to your business when winter is coming?

At the East Pierre Landscape and Garden Center in Pierre, SD, one of the ways to bring customers in is “Bringing the Outdoors In,” a free class they offer that gives attendees tips and ideas that will help them see the best results for overwintering their houseplants, herbs, annuals and perennials (while leaving pests behind).

“We’re holding the class as part of our commitment to produce at least one event each month, whether that’s a pay to participate (make a miniature garden, make and leave porch pots, holiday porch pots, etc.), a free educational seminar (bringing the outdoors in, cover crops and no-till backyard gardening, houseplants 101, etc.), or a community event (like our 4th Annual Fall Festival on Oct. 19),” said owner Art Smith. “We hear a lot from people who have plants outdoors and ask about bringing them in for the winter, which in South Dakota is a serious season.”

Smith said their initial intent in hosting events like these was to get people into the garden center after tomato planting season. “After just a couple of events it became very clear to even those of us that went through public schools that the local gardening community wanted more of what we were providing,” he said. “We’ve asked through Facebook what they want us to do and the almost unanimous response was more classes.”

The garden center, established in 1952, offers landscape design and installation services along with a plant nursery and greenhouses. Smith said their overall plan is to become the go-to place for quality plants and plant information in central South Dakota. By fulfilling that role they feel they’ll get more customers.

And the education doesn’t stop with their classes. They also have a weekly radio show, write an educational column for the local newspaper and do free house calls regarding plant problems (schedules permitting).

“After each event, we do a short debriefing about how things went, if it’s worth doing again and if so, does anything need to be changed?” Smith said. “We also listen to customers who comment about missing certain events. We’ll sit down with those notes and make a tentative events schedule for the next year. Some events – miniature gardens, succulent planters, make and leave porch pots, make holiday planters – we’ll always hold for the foreseeable future.” Others events may cycle through different topics.

Just because the days are growing shorter and the temperatures are cooling down doesn’t mean your business has to cool off too – at least, not until the flurries start flying.