Committed To Quality

Committed To Quality

Driving along the rapidly developing main stretch in Sandusky, Ohio, you’ll pass a number of hotels, retail stores and restaurants, all to accommodate the city’s main industry of amusement parks. And by a stroke of luck or misfortune, depending on the opinion, Corso’s Perennials is located just a few doors down from Cedar Point, the “rollercoaster capital of the world.” The wholesale growing operation specializing in perennials and herbs, also has its own retail garden center, Corso’s.

Founded in 1941 by August Corso and his three sons, Phil, Joe and Michael, the operation was forced to relocate to its current location when the government built a TNT plant on Corso’s original site during the war effort. The plant is now a NASA facility, says Gus Corso, the grandson of August, who runs the operation with his cousins, John, Mickey and Michelle Corso, and his sons Chad and Brad Corso.

Retail Rollercoaster

With competitors like The Home Depot, Lowe’s and Meijer down the street and a Menard’s store beginning construction right next door, the Corsos say it’s challenging to keep margins high enough and bring customers in.

“The struggle for independent garden centers is competition for that everyday dollar,” Gus says. “Anymore you have to decide whether you want to put money in your gas tank or buy flowers and if you buy flowers, how are you going to get them home without gas?”

Despite the competition, Corso’s plants still sell themselves, including cutting edge perennials varieties, spectacular hanging baskets and custom container plantings that set the retailer apart. In the spring, Chad says, customers swarm to the garden center and grab several of the huge, premium hanging baskets without even looking at the price. Unique as a one-stop shop, Corso’s also offers a floral shop, landscaping and excellent service from veteran industry professionals.

“We adjust to what our customer wants,” Chad says. “We take a lot of pride in growing a good quality product, listening to our customers and providing them with what they need.”

A second growing location is 10 miles away, and the wholesale operation feeds Corso’s garden center with a constant supply of high-quality perennials, herbs and vegetables, as well as supplying other independent and big box retailers in Ohio and a seven-state area. Corso’s Perennials also uses contract growers to supply its own retail needs and acts as a contract grower for other growers. Contract growing and supplying big box retailers has allowed Corso’s to grow sales and extend its season significantly over the past 10 years, shipping from the end of March into September.

With 90 full-time employees and 200 at peak, Corso’s attributes its success to five experienced growers and many loyal employees. “Our staff makes it all happen–without them, we wouldn’t exist,” Chad says. “We try to be fair employers, keep their jobs enjoyable, thank them when they deserve it and don’t ask them to do anything we wouldn’t do.”

Raising The Roof With Branding

Corso’s recently joined the green movement with its participation in the LiveRoofs program from Hortech. The brand includes a national network of about 20 growers so far, and is receiving a great deal of interest.

“LiveRoofs is a modular system of plants that are fully vegetated when they are delivered to the job site and produce an instant green roof when they are installed,” Gus says. “We have had a lot of interest–not a lot of jobs yet but it’s new for us; it’s coming on strong.”

This summer Corso’s will install a large LiveRoofs job at Lorain Community College in Ohio. Only two years into working with the brand, Gus says a number of manufacturers, office buildings and hospitals have expressed interest, getting quotes through architects for jobs one or two years in the future.
“There is big growth potential: green roofs are already big in western Michigan, Chicago and Indianapolis,” Gus says. “There are several municipalities that require businesses to install green roofs. Once businesses see the benefits, there will be a strong demand for LiveRoofs.”

Corso’s has also experienced success with Herb Herbert’s herbs since the mid ’90s, and STEPABLES creeping perennials since 2003.

“When Herb Herbert approached us, we were looking to upgrade our herb program, which was pretty generic at the time,” Chad says. “They had all the information and packaging we wanted and it fit right. Once we saw the benefits of that program and branding, we jumped when STEPABLES came along. It’s a very good concept and a good product for us to get in the door of a lot of independent garden centers.”

Corso’s own Perennial Perfections brand for independent garden centers was started to complement the core perennial business, more to streamline marketing efforts and provide consumers with a larger, more descriptive label with large photos, than to push a consumer recognized brand, Chad says. “It hasn’t reached the level of Coke,” he laughs.

Efficiency: Growing Smarter

Like all growers, Corso’s is working to streamline its operations in the face of rising energy and labor costs. A year ago, the operation suffered a large electrical fire that leveled several production barns, but an opportunity rose from the ashes.

“I never want to go through that again, but it allowed us to redesign our production barns, get new, up-to-date equipment and make our planting lines much more efficient than they were in the past,” Chad says. “It’s a rough way to get it, but after going through that experience, it makes us look at everything in a different way: how many people does it take for a certain job; the cost of one upgrade versus how much more efficient it will make us over the years. It’s made us smarter as far as our equipment is concerned.”

Corso’s will approach escalating fuel prices in the same manner with research into alternative energy solutions for the future, including wind energy at its second growing operation.

Leave a Reply

3 comments on “Committed To Quality

  1. How do I become a contract grower for a company? We currently have 11 acres of woods and cropland that we were thinking of developing for herbs and or perennials. We have previous experience on our farm doing certified organic cut flowers and produce. We are located in south central Pennsylvania. Any ideas or leads would be much appreciated.

More From Finance/Operations...
Pansy ‘Cool Wave Blue Skies’ (Wave)

September 20, 2016

PanAmerican Seed Settles Alleged Trade Sanction Violations

PanAmerican Seed, a division of Ball Horticultural Co., has been charged with violating trade sanctions to Iran over a number of years. According to a release from the U.S. Treasury department, PanAmerican Seed made 48 indirect sales of seeds to two Iranian distributors. The company shipped the seed to consignees based in countries in Europe and the Middle East. PanAmerican Seed’s customers then arranged for the re-exportation of the seeds to Iran. The release states that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) determined PanAmerican Seed did not voluntarily self-disclose the alleged violations to OFAC, constituting an egregious case. “We believe that the settlement was extreme; however the alternative was to litigate with the U.S. government, which would take months, if not years,” says Todd Billings, Chief Financial Officer for Ball Horticultural Co. When asked what Ball Horticultural Co. has done to ensure that violations to trade sanctions do not […]

Read More
young-plants

September 20, 2016

The Top Young Plant Growers, And Four Critical Challenges Facing Them

In Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top Young Plant Growers Survey, growers discuss the latest challenges and opportunities in fulfillment, shipping, labor, and crop protection.

Read More
Cavicchio Greenhouses

September 6, 2016

Cavicchio Greenhouses Wins Inaugural Sustainability Award

The Sudbury, MA, growing operation sustains more than 250 acres of annuals, perennials, and nursery stock, with a number of practices to mitigate its impact on the environment.

Read More
Latest Stories
Pansy ‘Cool Wave Blue Skies’ (Wave)

September 20, 2016

PanAmerican Seed Settles Alleged Trade Sanction Violati…

PanAmerican Seed, a division of Ball Horticultural Co., has been charged with violating trade sanctions to Iran over a number of years. According to a release from the U.S. Treasury department, PanAmerican Seed made 48 indirect sales of seeds to two Iranian distributors. The company shipped the seed to consignees based in countries in Europe and the Middle East. PanAmerican Seed’s customers then arranged for the re-exportation of the seeds to Iran. The release states that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) determined PanAmerican Seed did not voluntarily self-disclose the alleged violations to OFAC, constituting an egregious case. “We believe that the settlement was extreme; however the alternative was to litigate with the U.S. government, which would take months, if not years,” says Todd Billings, Chief Financial Officer for Ball Horticultural Co. When asked what Ball Horticultural Co. has done to ensure that violations to trade sanctions do not […]

Read More
young-plants

September 20, 2016

The Top Young Plant Growers, And Four Critical Challeng…

In Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top Young Plant Growers Survey, growers discuss the latest challenges and opportunities in fulfillment, shipping, labor, and crop protection.

Read More
Cavicchio Greenhouses

September 6, 2016

Cavicchio Greenhouses Wins Inaugural Sustainability Awa…

The Sudbury, MA, growing operation sustains more than 250 acres of annuals, perennials, and nursery stock, with a number of practices to mitigate its impact on the environment.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

September 6, 2016

10 Insights From Charlie Hall’s Green Industry Economic…

With the uncertain current economic climate, Texas A&M economist Charlie Hall says now may be the perfect time to invest — as long as you do it smartly.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More
Plug Connection Assortment

August 9, 2016

AmericanHort’s Plug And Cutting Conference Will Feature…

This year’s conference, which takes place Sept. 19-21 in Carlsbad, CA, features discussions on water, pest and disease control, and production inputs, as well as a biocontrols workshop and tour of local cuttings facilities.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Adv…

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More
Briscoe White, Growers Exchange

July 6, 2016

The Grower’s Exchange Unlocks The Secret to E-Commerce

In the Internet era, Briscoe and Kenan White knew they had to adapt or die and specialize to survive. Here’s how they took The Grower’s Exchange online.

Read More
Brie Arthur

July 6, 2016

5 Can’t-Miss Events To Watch For At Farwest 2016

Whether it’s classes on biocontrols and gardening trends, or networking opportunities in and around the trade show floor, there’s plenty happening at Farwest 2016 in Portland, OR, in August.

Read More
Cannabis states 2016

July 1, 2016

Adult Use Of Cannabis On The Ballot In 2016

25 states have legalized cannabis and public opinion is increasingly positive. Here’s where things may be headed as we move toward the fall elections.

Read More
Practical Software Grower Vertical

June 18, 2016

Practical Software Solutions Increases Accessibility, E…

Practical Software will demonstrate Grower Vertical, its customizable and scalable enterprise management system for the horticulture industry, at Cultivate’16 in July.

Read More
Battlefield Farms Company shot

June 14, 2016

Battlefield Farms Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation Of T…

Battlefield Farms in Rapidan, VA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Innovation award for 2016.

Read More

June 7, 2016

Ball Seed Offers Full Mobile Ordering Capabilities With…

The latest update for Ball Seed’s WebTrack To Go mobile app now includes full ordering capabilities for the industry’s largest assortment of seeds and plants. App users can also complete order fulfillment via seed count or package size, find product substitutions, get personalized “contact us” information, request plant tags, and more. “Upgrading WebTrack To Go to the full suite of ordering and management tools is where we’ve always wanted to be,” says Mark Morris, Director of IT for Ball Seed. “With this new roll-out, we’re keeping up with our customers on-the-go and providing them the information and access they need –- even while away from their desks.” The Ball Seed WebTrack To Go app lets customers: Check order status and shipment tracking 24-7 Access up-to-the-minute product inventory from hundreds of suppliers Place orders by seed count, packet size, and more Find product info, culture and photos when and where they […]

Read More
Gotham Greens Atrium Style Greenhouse Chicago

May 23, 2016

What’s Good For The Environment Is Good For Business [O…

Investing in technology to become more sustainable “always goes hand in hand,” says Abe VanWingerden, co-CEO of Metrolina Greenhouses. “If it is good for the environment, it normally is good for business over the long term.” That connection was abundantly clear in the responses we received to this year’s Top 100 Growers Survey. VanWingerden points to three investments Metrolina has made as good examples of how technology can reduce an operation’s carbon footprint and pay dividends financially. Its biomass system burns locally sourced waste wood — a renewable resource; its ozone water treatment system cleans irrigation water, reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and improving plant quality and precision growing; and electrostatic sprayers reduce water and chemical use, and provide more targeted chemical applications. Other Top 100 Growers have found VanWingerden’s theory to be true, as well. Costa Farms’ investment in solar energy panels on three buildings at its […]

Read More
Petunia 'Supertunia Violet Star Charm' (2015 University of Georgia Field Trials)

May 10, 2016

New Southern-Centric Ornamental Production Conference T…

The 2016 Academy of Crop Production is dedicated exclusively to sharing information on advanced ornamental crop production and business management techniques for ornamental producers.

Read More
University of Florida Online Greenhouse Training Courses

April 25, 2016

University of Florida Offering Online Training Courses …

There will be five courses offered, with the first starting on May 30. Courses are available in both English and Spanish and range from beginner level to advanced education.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]