Esbenshade’s Greenhouses: A Realistic Approach

Esbenshade's Greenhouses: A Realistic Approach

As much as Roger Esbenshade wants to believe industry growth opportunities exist, the best approach for Esbenshade’s Greenhouses, the Top 100 operation he owns with three brothers, is to accept the notion that the industry has plateaued.

Like other operations, Esbenshade’s had its share of growth over the years. Roger’s father, Lamar, founded the business more than 50 years ago as a small grower-retail business that successfully developed into a Southeast Pennsylvania midsized wholesale operation with three garden centers of its own today.

Today’s industry, however, is vastly different than the one Lamar entered more than a half century ago. Yes, Esbenshade’s has strong customer relationships with independent retailers in its region, and its garden center stores are good sources for the operation’s decision makers. But the fact, Roger says, is there really aren’t new sales to be had. Instead, success is better measured by market share, and the growers regularly expanding their operations are simply taking market share from others.

“I feel the industry has matured a lot,” says Roger, who serves as Esbenshade’s production manager. “We’ve refocused a little bit on trying to do a better job with the customers we’re currently working with rather than trying to find new customers. There probably are a few growth opportunities out there but I don’t think there are a whole lot of new sales.”

Adding Value

As bleak as Roger’s outlook seems, it’s arguably an accurate one. Esbenshade’s likely won’t experience the growth over the next 50 years that it did over the previous 50, but Roger, his brothers Fred, Scott and Terry and his sister Linda Bomberger, are shaping the business around value that works for both the operation and its existing customers. One area Esbenshade’s is creating value is in price.

“I think it’s important for us to price products so customers can maximize their profits,” Roger says. “The only way I can survive is if our customers survive. So our approach is not how much we can get for a product, but how we can price a product so our customer stays in business.”

 

Esbenshade’s Greenhouses

Owners
Fred, Roger, Scott and Terry Esbenshade

Location
Lititz, Pa.

Size
710,000 square feet of greenhouse space and 120,000 square feet of field production

Crops
Ornamental bedding plants, flowering potted plants

Markets
Independent retailers and its own retail stores in Fleetwood, Lititz and Mohnton, Pa.

Website
Esbenshades.com

 

In addition to price, Esbenshade’s is adding value in its product offerings. Four years ago, for example, Esbenshade’s was interested in creating a premium annuals brand for its garden center and independent retail customers. As a Master Nursery Garden Center member, Esbenshade’s piloted the Garden Elements program in 2007 that’s only available at select garden centers and nurseries in the Eastern United States.

“We were interested in doing something in a branded line,” Roger says. “It turned out [Master Nursery] was interested in doing something, too, but it hadn’t found a grower who was interested in it. Our concept wasn’t exactly like Master Nursery’s concept, but they quickly agreed to some of our ideas. Our idea was based on a container program, and we were looking to produce products for containers and baskets.”

Garden Elements is the one brand Esbenshade’s produces. Lately, though, the operation is dedicating more time and space to premium hanging baskets and combinations. Esbenshade’s has had so much demand for premium hanging baskets, in fact, that it can hardly grow anything beneath its hanging basket system.

The increased demand has mostly been for combo baskets, Roger says, while Esbenshade’s single-crop basket offerings are tapering off. Linda is largely responsible for designing combination planters, as she conducts her own combo trials on site over the summer.

“Linda really has an eye for what looks good together,” Roger says. “She’ll see if things will work out–sometimes I don’t think certain crops will work well together–but they do in the end. A lot of what we do in combos is not easy to do. We’ll put a geranium and calibrachoa together, but they’re not easy to grow together.”

Hoop Houses For Haiti 

Understanding there’s a dire need for homes in Haiti, Esbenshade’s Greenhouse has designed and constructed hundreds of structures to house homeless Haitians following the January earthquake.

Yet, the end results are combo baskets customers won’t find anywhere else.

Big On Biomass

Among the greenhouse projects Esbenshade’s has tackled over the last decade are flood floors, Boomerang hanging basket systems and biomass heating. The operation has been burning wood chips to heat its greenhouses for at least 20 years, Roger says, and the system has probably saved Esbenshade’s some money–although there were years when fuel prices were so low that wood chips were actually more expensive.

Esbenshade’s last updated its biomass heating system about seven years ago, and it’s currently in the midst of installing a new biomass system that’s capable of producing electricity the operation can use or sell to its electric company.

“To do this project we need some different equipment,” Roger says. “Electrical cogeneration isn’t common in our industry but it’s common in industries that generate a significant amount of waste wood product. In Pennsylvania, there’s net metering so you can put your electricity into the grid today and take it back tomorrow. If you use more than you generated, you pay for it. If you use less, they pay you.”
Roger anticipates the project paying for itself in just a few years, and if electricity rates climb–which he expects–Esbenshade’s will see additional savings.

“Overall, [biomass] has probably saved us some money,” Roger says. “It’s a lot of investment and it’s definitely prone to mechanical breakdowns. It’s not as rosy as you might think.”

A Family Affair

Brothers and sisters working together isn’t always a rosy proposition, either, but the Esbenshade siblings involved in the operation have found a way to work together seamlessly. While Roger is in charge of production, Fred serves as an office manager who focuses on production scheduling; Scott is in charge of facilities and shipping; and Terry is garden center general manager.

There’s also Linda, making five of Lamar’s and Nancy’s nine children active in the business. Unfortunately, Lamar died earlier this year, but his children still carry his passion for the industry and his philanthropic nature. The Esbenshades’ effort earlier this year designing hoop houses as shelters for the homeless in Haiti is just the latest example of the family’s goodwill.

And from a business standpoint, the Esbenshades function well together because of their overall interest in the business.

“We’re always giving input to each other about things we think could be helpful, and because we have the overall interest, we don’t just say something is somebody else’s responsibility,” Roger says. “We all take an interest in seeing the business improve.”

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The Gaillardia

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Annual Meeting Date

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
Evolvulus Blue My Mind

February 24, 2015

Blue Ribbon Bloomers For Greenhouse Production

Grow what consumers want! Surveys show that blue is one of the top preferred colors of today’s consumers. Here are twelve top recommended blue-flowering Proven Winners annuals and perennials to suit your spring production cycle.

Read More
Latest Stories
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Ann…

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
myers industries Lawn and Garden Logo

February 24, 2015

Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn And Garden Business Sold, N…

The management of Myers Lawn and Garden Group, along with Wingate Partners V, L.P. have recently acquired the Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn and Garden business. The new company is named The HC Companies, and will continue as a North American leading provider of horticulture containers supplying the greenhouse, nursery and retail markets.

Read More
american-hort-logo

February 17, 2015

AmericanHort Announces New Board Members

AmericanHort recently announced the election of new officers and members to the board of directors. Each will assume their positions on the board during Cultivate’15, July 11 to 14 in Columbus, Ohio.

Read More
All American Selections

February 17, 2015

All-America Selections Elects New Officers, Names New J…

While meeting during the Flower and Vegetable Seed Conference in Tampa, Fla., hosted by the American Seed Trade Association, All-America Selections elected new officers for a two-year term. Read on to learn about the new officers, as well as all of the new judges that were added in 2014.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower.com on your desktop, on your phone, on your tablet

February 11, 2015

GreenhouseGrower.com Relaunches With Responsive Design …

Greenhouse Grower magazine, the nation’s leader in profits, production and education for greenhouse growers, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, GreenhouseGrower.com. The new design is the product of direct user feedback and GreenhouseGrower.com analytics, and includes responsive design for ease of mobile use.

Read More
Andy Higgins

February 3, 2015

MasterTag Names Andy Higgins As Its New President

Former CEO and president of Ecke Ranch, Andy Higgins, joins MasterTag as its new president. He brings more than two decades of industry experience to the position.

Read More
Syngenta Bioline Hires Ronald Valentin For Technical Lead Role

January 28, 2015

Syngenta Bioline Hires Ronald Valentin For Technical Le…

Ronald Valentin has been appointed technical lead for Syngenta Bioline, effective January 2015. He will be responsible for technical support of Bioline biological control agents and will be instrumental in helping growers develop integrated pest management (IPM) solutions.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Give Equal Time To The Number Crunchers

Before investing in a new business opportunity, check in with the financial gurus of your organization to make certain you have the cash flow to back up your efforts.

Read More
Plant Introductions, Inc. partners Mark Griffith, Dr. Michael Dirr and Jeff Beasley and Bailey Nurseries President Terri McEnaney.

January 20, 2015

Bailey Nurseries’ Purchase Of Plant Introductions Inc. …

When Bailey Nurseries purchased its long-time breeding partner, Plant Introductions, Inc. (PII), in early January 2015, it freed the PII team to concentrate on what they do best: develop new plants. Bailey Nurseries will take on the business management side of the partnership, but otherwise the relationship it has enjoyed with PII for years will be largely unchanged.

Read More
Plant Introductions, Inc. partners Mark Griffith, Dr. Michael Dirr and Jeff Beasley and Bailey Nurseries President Terri McEnaney.

January 13, 2015

Bailey Nurseries Acquires Plant Introductions

Bailey Nurseries has acquired Plant Introductions, Inc. (PII), effective January 1, 2015. PII has developed numerous innovative new varieties that have been marketed worldwide, many introduced by Bailey Nurseries.

Read More

January 7, 2015

How Inflation Affects Your Business And Why You Can’t I…

Awareness of the true increase in costs after inflation is a necessary part of good financial management for greenhouse operations.

Read More

December 4, 2014

New Developments In Shipping/Logistics Software

Improved shipping and logistics software from Picas Software and MapMechanics makes it easier for growers to plan loads efficiently and automate day-to-day distribution planning.

Read More
Fritz Dramm

December 2, 2014

Dramm Corporation Welcomes Back Fritz Dramm

Dramm Corp. recently welcomed Fritz Dramm as the new fertilizer production and compliance manager. Dramm previously worked at the company through high school and college, and is back after 20-plus years.

Read More
Sarah Harwood

November 24, 2014

Take Control Of Your Operation’s Succession Planning Pr…

Proper business and estate planning with your intentions clearly expressed can ensure your goals for the future of your business are fulfilled.

Read More

November 24, 2014

Succession Planning For Growers

Succession planning is a sensitive subject, but one that needs to be addressed when deciding on your operation's legacy. Greenhouse Grower caught up with two growers who shared their process and provided tips for a smooth transition.

Read More

November 24, 2014

BrightFarms Pioneers Hydroponic Greenhouses For Urban A…

BrightFarms brings fresh, local produce to underserved areas with hydroponic greenhouses located on neglected urban spaces.

Read More

November 10, 2014

NGB, AFE To Join In #GivingTuesday On December 2

The American Floral Endowment will participate in #GivingTuesday on December 2, a national movement to encourage charitable giving.

Read More

November 8, 2014

Amid Drought, Californians Talk Water

As extreme drought conditions continue, the state looks at how it manages its resources, while growers try to conserve and meet changing consumer needs.

Read More