GN-MR-3-Ponderayby Kelly Gates
Ponderay, Idaho is a small town with around 10,000 year-round residents and a host of resort-goers who come to enjoy skiing and other alpine activities on and around the area’s infamous Schweitzer Mountain. Ponderay Garden Center has been catering to both locals and vacation homeowners for the past six years. Recently, the company came under new management, with an aim to create greater efficiencies throughout the operation.
“I took over several months ago and have already seen just how committed the owners are to providing an incredible garden center for the local community,” said Bill Friedmann, newly appointed general manager at Ponderay Garden Center. “The dedication to providing the best possible customer service is quite amazing. And, this is such a unique facility that people often come out just to enjoy the atmosphere.”
The facility is indeed one-of-a-kind. The entire nine-acre parcel used to be a dairy farm, complete with milking shed, hay barn and other related structures. According to Friedmann, these buildings were converted into offices and display/retail spaces, with special care taken to maintain the rustic farm ambiance. Display gardens were also constructed throughout the property so customers can meander through the natural environment and see how the plant material sold at Pondery Garden Center looks in a landscape setting.
“The previous management team and owners did a great job setting up the site, turning the old milking barn into offices and even saving the large loft with its large hay doors at the top,” said Friedmann. “An old farm building up the hill was converted into a pottery barn filled with landscape tools, yard decorations and pottery. There are two other themed buildings too, including an antiques building and another one where we display fireplace and stone products.”
Much of the plant material sold there — namely annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, hanging baskets and mixed containers — is displayed in and around the main retail building. Several small greenhouses are also on site to house an assortment of plant material, like hanging baskets, which are also scattered throughout the grounds.
Designers are on hand to help shoppers sort through the collection of stone and concrete products, pavers and an array of fountains and lighting items custom made by one of the garden center’s employees.
“Our yard and fabrications manager, Colin Sanders, makes wonderful works of art using large stones,” said Friedmann. “He will plumb a stone, turning it into a fountain or add electrical components, creating yard lights that weigh anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds up to 1,000 pounds. Some of the fountains he’s made out of stone weigh 10,000 pounds and have 10-inch diameter plumbing holes where water dances up and out in all directions.”
Sanders’ expertise is matched only by that of Ryan Daly, the company’s manager, as well as assistant manager Matt Marciniak, plant manager Sumer Davis and the rest of the support staff that work together to provide top-notch service to garden center clients.
Starting in the winter of 2014, the skilled crew will join forces to supply products throughout the winter months for customers, making Ponderay Garden Center a year-round operation for the first time since its inception.
Along with great customer service and high quality plants and garden products, the company is also known for its wide variety of on-site events, said Friedmann.
“This summer, we plan to have at least one outdoor concert each month during the summer. In the past, the company has had up to eight concerts each year, attracting up to 1,500 people at a time,” he explained. “We’ve also held gardening classes and seminars, cooking classes, charity events and Easter egg hunts.”
In July Ponderay Garden Center will welcome 40-50 renowned artists to the grounds to display their works. Live music and food vendors will add to the overall feel of the art event, he added.
Having so many activities has enabled the company to draw potential customers to the site. As the new general manager, Friedmann plans to further enhance these outreach efforts while continuing to streamline the business.
“My main focus so far has been on organization and ensuring that we are using more efficiencies, like computer systems and data software that helps us track products better and help our contractor customers plan jobs,” he said. “I’m also targeting and inviting contractors and business professionals to come to the facility, and we offer a different pricing structure for this type of customer for things like fireplace components, natural and manufactured stone as well as hardscape materials that our standard retail customers do not typically buy directly from us.”