by Bill and Mary Weaver
Pahl’s family-owned greenhouse, in Apple Valley, MN has something for every season. They specialize in spring bedding plants, hanging baskets, perennials, trees and shrubs and a full landscaping department. The greenhouse is combined with a 1,000-acre family run farm and a 20-week CSA. Through Halloween, the greenhouse had been selling fall mums, pumpkins, Indian corn and every other fall decoration imaginable. Their cut Christmas trees and wreaths are stocked, drawing large numbers of customers again.
In early November, Pahl’s Greenhouse offers very popular workshops in which customers can create crafts made with evergreen branches. The enthusiasm of the customers was evident when we stopped in. Customers of all ages flocked to the sessions. Pahl’s offered materials for two do-it-yourself selections, a kissing ball and a spruce tip pot. Customers could drop in at their convenience, and spend as much time as they wanted on their creations.
Materials for the kissing ball included pre-cut fraser and balsam boughs to stick into a Styrofoam ball, along with a gorgeous array of ribbons to use for hanging the balls and bows for decorations. In addition there were stick-in decorations for customers who desired them.
Materials for the spruce pots included pots, soil and spruce tips to arrange. For an additional fee, customers could choose from a wide variety of stick-in decorative items, including unusual but beautiful items like pheasant feathers, and other types of pre-cut branches, including oregonia, Norway pine, white pine, Orford cedar, red huckleberry, and incense cedar, which an employee commented was the most popular of the supplemental greens.
Several customers enthusiastically mentioned as they worked that they had been “regulars “ at these workshops for as many as five years, and always looked forward to them. One “regular” commented she had learned a lot from helpful staff members, who appeared to enjoy the event as much as the customers. Staff offered help when asked, and did not intrude on customers who preferred to work on their own.
To add to the festive air, Pahl’s offered free refreshments, including cheese and crackers, cookies, candy, bottled water and other snack items.
Most customers put considerable time and energy into creating their kissing balls and spruce pots. Many made the workshop a social occasion, working with family members and friends, with much laughter, conversation and comparison of each other’s work.
Pahl’s has developed an efficient system for the potentially complex job of keeping track of how many extra evergreen branches and stick-in ornaments each customer has used, and the cost of the ornaments.
Before each customer pays, their finished spruce pot or kissing ball is checked by an employee and initialed. Recognizing their customers have busy schedules, several employees were on hand to whisk their finished creations to a pick-up point, where loading assistance was available, after they had paid, using their receipts as identification.
Customer left with printed directions on how to keep their creations fresh and long-lasting.
The whole system worked very smoothly, and brought in a surprising number of customers happy for the opportunity to create something beautiful in a festive, fun-filled atmosphere in the bright greenhouse.
After the last of the craft days, the greenhouse where the crafts were made is filled with cut Christmas trees, wreaths, and poinsettias. The craft classes will help to remind satisfied customers to return to Pahl’s Greenhouse for these purchases, and for other decorative items in their well-stocked Christmas shop.
Offering classes using cut greens to draw in customers
by Bill and Mary Weaver