Modern Family Business

Modern Family Business

 

Nortex Wholesale Nursery is a family business–has been for more than half a century. Ralph Pinkus started a retail operation in 1951. Ralph’s son, Jon Pinkus launched a growing operation in 1972. And John’s son, Aaron Pinkus, joined the company seven years ago, and moved into the position of vice president and general manager three years later. Nortex’s employees are like family, too, with some working there more than 20 years.

Sometimes, that much tradition in a family business can stand in the way of progress. That’s not the case with this Wylie, Texas, greenhouse operation and its young general manager, however. A new generation means new ideas, and Aaron Pinkus has plenty of them.

In the last few years, Pinkus and Nortex–a finalist for Greenhouse Grower’s 2009 Grower of the Year Award–have reworked the operation’s product mix, targeted new customers, upgraded facilities and devised new marketing plans. And they’re not close to being finished.

Not Standing Still
Aaron Pinkus aggressively looks for new opportunities. One of his first big decisions was shifting some of the company’s production from bedding plants to the premium color market. The goal was to appeal more to high-end retailers looking for a better quality product. “A few of our greenhouses have a very high overhead. We wanted to do more crops with a higher gross margin to improve our profitability,” Pinkus says.

Nortex upgraded facilities as well. The first step was adding more space tailored for those premium bedding plants. It also expanded with some more efficient greenhouse space, enabling the company to expand its business with local landscapers. Next, the company added a new propagation house to free up valuable square footage in existing greenhouse space. In the last year they have also added additional outdoor production area and updated irrigation and heating systems. Upcoming projects include another 2-acre expansion and adding barcoding equipment to the line.

The marketing budget will get a bump for 2010, too. Last year, Nortex spent most of its marketing dollars promoting its Blue Label Herbs program. Approximately 1.5 percent of herb sales went toward marketing the brand. That number will increase to 3.5 to 4 percent this year.

“In the past we’ve passed on some opportunities primarily because we were concerned about our return on investment,” Pinkus says. “I’ve learned if you’re going to do it, you have to do it right.”

Nortex Wholesale Nursery

Owners: Jon & Lillian Pinkus

Location: Wylie, Texas

Size: 7 acres of greenhouse production & 6 acres of outdoor production

Markets: Independent garden centers; high-end retailers such as Central Market and Whole Foods in Texas and surrounding states; local landscape companies

Some of the increased investment will go into marketing materials targeted directly at consumers. Timely information will run on the company’s own consumer-facing BlueLabelHerbs.com website. POP materials with recipes and other uses for herbs will also be placed in retail locations throughout the season.

The Blue Label Herb program is indicative of the direction Pinkus sees the industry heading. “I think one of the big trends in the industry over the last five or 10 years has been branding. A lot of breeders have built some very nice brands and they market them really well,” he says. “Ball’s Simply Beautiful program, for example, is probably the best one we’ve come across as far as being designed well for our area.”

In fact, with the success of Blue Label Herbs, Pinkus thinks branding is something Nortex might do more of itself.

“We work hard to find crops that grow really well in our area,” he says.

Focus On The Independent
Pinkus says the relationships that have helped build the Blue Label Herbs brand are possible because of the type of customer Nortex chooses to serve: independent retailers who look for just that type of differentiation. “We don’t sell to the boxes,” he says. “We sell only to independent garden centers like Calloway’s Nursery, North Haven Gardens, and Redenta’s, and some smaller independents like Covington Nursery or Puckett Nursery.” Higher-end retailers like Whole Foods and Central Market are also key customers.

That focus on the independent has allowed Nortex to carve out a niche as a grower who is eager to try new things for its customers.

“We try to be unique in that we grow a lot of different varieties,” Pinkus says. “That’s been requested by the retailers and it’s become part of our reputation.”

Retail customers have a lot of input into what Nortex produces. The sales staff talks with customers all season long, getting feedback on new plants and ideas. They walk with retail customers at trade shows and at the Dallas Arboretum Trial Garden, making note of what catches their eye. Pinkus works with his growers to see if those suggestions make sense to try locally.

Nortex also keeps good records on its customers, making note of what they’ve bought and how it sold for them during the year, Pinkus says. “A lot of the smaller companies we choose to deal with don’t have really good computer systems that tell them what they’re doing well and what they’re not doing well. We try to help them with that where we can.”

That kind of communication has helped Nortex develop an extremely trusting relationship with its customers. In a sense, their retailer customers are part of the Nortex family, too. “We are able to discuss, very openly, successes and failures. It’s a privilege to be able to go to a customer and be able to help them in a different way than just the product you sell them. We work hand in hand with a lot of our customers and I think that is one of the big reasons we’ve been so successful in the retail market.”

Expecting Success
Those relationships have obviously paid off. Despite the concerns about the economy, 2009 was a record year for Nortex.

“Everything went smoothly. We increased sales 8 percent over 2008 and our profitability was considerably higher than the year before, too,” Pinkus says.

Sales representative Frank Trevino echoes Pinkus’ sentiment. “Some of our larger customers were slower, so we had extra material. We were able to move it with new, smaller customers we hadn’t done much with in the past. We have actually increased production a little bit for next year because of that. They’re small but they can move quite a bit of color in the height of the season.”

And although some cool, rainy fall weather got Nortex’s current season off to a slow start, Pinkus says he expects the positive trend to continue this year.

“We have an ambitious plan for spring. It looks like we’ll increase our landscaper business significantly. I also expect an increase with the retailers we picked up last year once we’ve developed a reputation with them as being able to deliver quality when they ask for it. I have high hopes for this year.”

Leave a Reply

4 comments on “Modern Family Business

  1. I would like to speak with Lillian Pinkus.

    I am currently writing my fifth and final book on
    successful women in the DFW area. I would like to speak with you
    about being in this book.

    Please take a look at my website listed below. There you can read
    something about me, you can see four of the five books I have written
    here in the Dallas area, and 67 of the ladies I have written about.

    Then if you would give me call back, not at the number on the
    website, but at 972-572-5839, I would like to speak with you about
    being in this book.

  2. I am currently writing my fifth and final book on successful women in the DFW area. I would like to speak with Lillian Pinkus about being in this book.

    Please take a look at my website listed below. There you can read
    something about me, you can see four of the five books I have written
    here in the Dallas area, and 67 of the ladies I have written about.

    Then if you would give me call back, not at the number on the
    website, but at 972-572-5839, I would like to speak with you about
    being in this book.

  3. I would like to speak with Lillian Pinkus.

    I am currently writing my fifth and final book on
    successful women in the DFW area. I would like to speak with you
    about being in this book.

    Please take a look at my website listed below. There you can read
    something about me, you can see four of the five books I have written
    here in the Dallas area, and 67 of the ladies I have written about.

    Then if you would give me call back, not at the number on the
    website, but at 972-572-5839, I would like to speak with you about
    being in this book.

  4. I am currently writing my fifth and final book on successful women in the DFW area. I would like to speak with Lillian Pinkus about being in this book.

    Please take a look at my website listed below. There you can read
    something about me, you can see four of the five books I have written
    here in the Dallas area, and 67 of the ladies I have written about.

    Then if you would give me call back, not at the number on the
    website, but at 972-572-5839, I would like to speak with you about
    being in this book.

More From Business Management...
Heating Roundup Feature Image

August 1, 2015

5 New Heating Options For The Greenhouse

Five heating systems manufacturers share their latest and greatest products. Tubing And Aluminum Heat Pipes (BioTherm) From Megatube and MicroClimate tubing to DuoFin and StarFin aluminum heat pipe, BioTherm is dedicated to providing heat solutions that can withstand the toughest greenhouse environments. The MegaTube and MicroClimate tubing options are easy to install and ideal for bench or floor heating. The tubing has a conductive heating surface that allows for maximum root-zone heating. The DuoFin and StarFin aluminum pipe options are great for perimeter heating and melting snow trapped in the greenhouse gutter. It can also be useful for bench heating. Both pipe options provide gentle, radiant heat for plants and don’t require welding. TrueLeaf.net Infinite Energy 2 Condensing Boiler (Delta T Solutions) With up to 98 percent efficiency, the IE2 condensing boiler boasts a stainless steel heat exchanger with larger waterways to ensure maximum heat transfer. The product’s design ensures flexibility while […]

Read More
Basil_Persian-AAS2015_620x329

July 31, 2015

All-America Selections Promotes Garden-Fresh Cooking

All-America Selections (AAS) has stepped forward with another first when promoting AAS Winners, this time in the form of cooking videos using vegetables/edibles that have performed extremely well in the AAS Trials. These days, a love of gardening is directly related to a passion for cooking. Tying the two together is a natural when marketing joys of cooking with fresh vegetables from the garden and farm market. After 82 years of conducting trials where only the best performers are declared AAS Winners, the organization now has more than 325 individual varieties that have been “Tested Nationally & Proven Locally.” It is some of these many varieties that culinary storyteller, entertainer and horticulture industry veteran Jonathan Bardzik will use in a series of five videos demonstrating cooking techniques with AAS Winning herbs and vegetables. “I am excited to partner with All-America Selections to show people across the country that AAS Winners perform […]

Read More
Burpee Home Gardens Brand Adds Flowers

July 31, 2015

4 Reasons Retailers Snub National Brands

Greenhouse Grower’s lead editor, Laura Drotleff, and I got into a debate about why garden retailers, especially independent garden centers, snub marketing efforts from breeders and growers. She was very much on the breeders’ and growers’ side, expressing frustration about how limited retailers’ vision can be on the topic. I’ve reported on the garden retail side of the industry since 1998, about the same length of time Laura has reported on growers. I’ve heard a lot of retailer views on this, so allow me to share the most common reasons why retailers decline free marketing: Costs. While the marketing materials are free, and sometimes advertising, participating in these projects usually requires minimum orders. From a grower’s perspective, the minimum orders are reasonable. If garden stores promote a plant line, they need to have enough supplies to satisfy demand. From a retail perspective, if inventory reports show a plant line can […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Burpee Home Gardens Brand Adds Flowers

July 31, 2015

4 Reasons Retailers Snub National Brands

Greenhouse Grower’s lead editor, Laura Drotleff, and I got into a debate about why garden retailers, especially independent garden centers, snub marketing efforts from breeders and growers. She was very much on the breeders’ and growers’ side, expressing frustration about how limited retailers’ vision can be on the topic. I’ve reported on the garden retail side of the industry since 1998, about the same length of time Laura has reported on growers. I’ve heard a lot of retailer views on this, so allow me to share the most common reasons why retailers decline free marketing: Costs. While the marketing materials are free, and sometimes advertising, participating in these projects usually requires minimum orders. From a grower’s perspective, the minimum orders are reasonable. If garden stores promote a plant line, they need to have enough supplies to satisfy demand. From a retail perspective, if inventory reports show a plant line can […]

Read More

July 30, 2015

Spread Your Risk Beyond Spring Sales [Opinion]

Growers who participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Recap Survey said they have had enough of the uncertainty that the weather brings. They said it’s time to build up sales in other seasons like fall so we’re not so dependent on spring. As a couple of wholesale growers, both from the Southeast, very eloquently stated, our industry has mastered squeezing everything we can out of the spring season. And while this year happened to be a very successful one, thanks to the improving economy and elevated consumer confidence, they said, “now is no time to celebrate.” “Spring is still Christmas in the horticulture industry, but we have done such a good job focusing on spring that we have neglected other seasons,” one grower said. “Having so many eggs in the spring basket is dangerous. Fall will never be what spring is, but having a solid second season is in […]

Read More

July 29, 2015

2015 Spring Crops Report: Rain Soaks Spring Sales

Rain, rain and more rain. That was the story this spring for the large majority of growers across the U.S. And where it wasn’t too wet, it was too dry. Drought conditions cut sales in the West and Southwest. But it wasn’t all bad. Eighty-nine percent of respondents to Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Survey declared the season a success, despite its challenges. They said beautiful weather in April and excited consumers who were ready to spend got the season going early, but then cool temps and rainy weekends throughout May and June caused confusion over when and how much to plant. Of the 189 respondents to Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Recap Survey, 53 percent identified themselves as grower-retailers, 34 percent were wholesale growers and 13 percent said they were young plant growers. Most responses came from the Midwest (27 percent), Northeast (18 percent) and Southeast (16 percent), but also […]

Read More
eMailMarketing feature image

July 23, 2015

Is eMail Dead?

Email as a marketing technique may seem outdated, but when done well, it is still an effective way to share content and market your brand.

Read More
Berns_Roberto Lopez_Purdue6

July 22, 2015

Cultivate’15 Greenhouse Learning Tour Showcases G…

Growers took advantage of the Greenhouse Learning tour held Saturday, July 11 at Cultivate'15 to see the strategies and technology two successful growing operations are using to tackle production challenges and come out ahead of the game.

Read More
HGTV HOME CAST 2015

July 22, 2015

Cultivate’15: Keynote Nancy Fire Says Use Passion…

In the second keynote presentation at Cultivate’15, Nancy Fire, founder and creative director of Design Works International, discussed how the horticulture industry can capitalize on the latest design and lifestyle trends. Fire works with companies to help bring their designs to the next level, and she has expertise with textiles and surface design, market analysis and corporate rebranding. She was appointed as design director for HGTV HOME in 2011. Fire says customers today are interested in companies that show passion for what they do. That, combined with following the general direction of trends and maintaining a brand, are what will keep horticulture businesses relevant to their customers. A trend isn’t just a passing fad, Fire says, but rather, it indicates that something is developing or changing in a certain direction. Plants are important to consumers today, and fit into current trends, both inside and outside the home, Fire says. “I don’t […]

Read More
LuxFlora logo feature image

July 21, 2015

Luxflora Launches With Cultivate Speaker Event, New Web…

A new organization for women in horticulture that aims to change the way consumers think about flowers, launched at Cultivate’15 by sponsoring Ketty Maisonrouge, a marketing expert, who presented “How To Create A Luxury Brand.” Luxflora recently launched its website, as well as a page on LinkedIn, to facilitate networking among women in horticulture. The organization is working on next steps, including setting up a board of directors and officers. Updates and information on future events will be available at the Luxflora website as they are scheduled. Read about Luxflora’s mission and what it hopes to accomplish in “Luxflora Wants To Create A Lifestyle Movement.” In the session during Cultivate, Ketty Maisonrouge, owner of KM & Company, adjunct professor of luxury strategy at the Columbia University Business School and the author of “The Luxury Alchemist,” presented her ideas and expertise on luxury strategy marketing, and how it applies to horticulture. […]

Read More

July 17, 2015

Young Plant Survey: Do You Grow Plugs And Liners?

If your operation produces plugs or liners for wholesale growers, please take a few minutes to participate in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Young Plant Grower Survey. We know you are very busy and we value your time and input. This survey should only take a few minutes. Greenhouse Grower’s Young Plant Grower Survey has played a key role in building our Top 20 Young Plant Growers list over the years. The information helps us zero in on trends taking shape and the challenges you’re facing as young plant growers. If you have any questions about this survey or you are not the right contact for this at your operation, please email me at ldrotleff@meistermedia.com, or please forward the survey link to the appropriate person. We would like to wrap up this survey by July 24, so please take it soon! Thank you in advance for your participation. We value your opinion! » […]

Read More

July 15, 2015

Cultivate’15 Town Hall Meeting: Not Your Grandma&…

Young and innovative industry minds threw down ideas about future of gardening in the new millennium at the Cultivate’15 Town Hall Meeting. Traditionally one of the most innovative, captivating, controversial, edge-of-your-seat, interesting discussions at the whole show, this year’s Town Hall Meeting was no exception. The set up for this discussion addressed the radical change within the world of horticulture over the past decade, due to economics, demographics, technology, retail competition and the redefinition of gardening. The premise: Change cannot be ignored, and our old strategies won’t win us the game anymore. This session acted as a “callback” to the drawing board to determine what gardening actually means to consumers, how the horticulture industry needs to respond to meet the demands of the new millennium and the consequences that may result if we don’t. The esteemed panel included some of the brightest young and innovative minds in horticulture: Brienne Arthur of […]

Read More
Girl on Smartphone

July 15, 2015

Keynote Curt Steinhorst Says Generational Divide A Prod…

Curt Steinhorst of The Center for Generational Kinetics kicked off Cultivate'15 with a dynamic keynote address filled with humor on how to bridge the generational gaps in the workforce and use it to your competitive advantage.

Read More

July 15, 2015

New Products Featured At Cultivate’15

A multitude of new products were on display at Cultivate’15, held in Columbus, Ohio. Attendees were given a first-hand look at new plant introductions coming to market, as well as innovative hardgoods, technology and equipment. One of the new options for varieties featured at Cultivate’15 was Sporticulture, winner of the 2015 Fresh Ideas Award. Sporticulture offers access to major sports leagues’ licensed products and packing. Team logos can appear on containers and tags, allowing growers and retailers to benefit from the loyalty customers have for their favorite team. Some of the featured plant varieties included Jolt interspecific Dianthus, from PanAmerican Seed, plus six new varieties from Sakata, including ColorWorks petunias, ‘Dragon’s Breath’ Celosia, PartyTime Coleus, ‘Proud Mari’ Marigold, SunPatiens Impatiens and Vitalia Vinca. Emerald Coast Growers featured its Marsala-toned plants, as a nod to Pantone’s Color of the Year. The collection included Pennisetum messiacum ‘Red Buttons,’ Pennisetum ‘Rubrum and ‘Eaton […]

Read More
USDA Logo

July 15, 2015

USDA’s 2014 Floriculture Crops Summary By The Numbers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its 2014 Floriculture Crops Summary in June. Here are some of the highlights: The total crop value at wholesale for the 15-state program with $10,000 or more in sales is $4.07 billion, compared with $4.25 billion in 2013 The percentage wholesale value of floriculture crops is down 4 percent from the 2013 valuation There are 4,849 producers for 2014, down 21 percent in the 15 states, compared with the 2013 count of 6,115 2,510 of producers had sales of $100,000 or more in 2014, down 5 percent from 2,632 in 2013 733 million square feet was the total covered area for floriculture crop production in 15 state area evaluated in 2014, down from 735 million square feet in 2013 $1.82 billion was the wholesale value of all bedding and garden plants, including herbaceous perennials, representing 46 percent of the value of all reported crops The wholesale value for […]

Read More
CEO Karl Stensson, Sheridan-Nurseries

July 15, 2015

Sheridan Nurseries Named Greenhouse Grower’s Oper…

Sheridan Nurseries was named Operation of the Year at Greenhouse Grower’s Evening of Excellence, held July 13, at Cultivate’15 in Columbus, Ohio. The company was also awarded for Excellence In Perennials Prouction, based on its reputation for plant quality and the activities the nursery has led and been a part of, both within its company and in the industry at large. Sheridan Nurseries is Canada’s largest grower of hardy nursery plants and has been in business for more than a century, having opened in 1913. The operation has two production facilities with a combined 900 acres, plus eight retail garden centers. Its Norval, Ontario, facility includes 83 acres and 340,000 square feet of heated production space. There, Sheridan grows annuals, perennials and vines and propagates its own nursery stock liners. Woody plants, including trees, shrubs, evergreens and broadleaf evergreens, are produced at its Glen Williams, Ontario, container and field nursery, which […]

Read More

July 8, 2015

Behind The Sale: Why Dümmen Orange Bought Florexpo, And…

Dümmen Orange recently announced it has acquired the product portfolio of Florexpo Costa Rica, a leading specialist in the production of perennials, herbs and annuals. During the fall of 2015, Dümmen Orange will start up production of perennials at its upgraded Antigua Flowers Guatemala farm, formerly the Ecke II facility in Antigua, Guatemala. The Altmanns, who founded Florexpo, as well as some of the key managers in the Florexpo team, will be assuming roles in this new endeavor. “In its long history Florexpo has built a good assortment, an outstanding sales network and a professional team of employees,” Perry Wismans, managing partner at Dümmen Orange, said in a press release. “With this move, Dümmen Orange takes the next step in realizing its growth strategy – aimed at creating synergies in technology, production and sales. We realize these synergies by distributing a variety of breeding programs and cross selling these products […]

Read More
BeeSmart logo

July 7, 2015

Grow Wise, Bee Smart Website Launches As Industry Resou…

The new Grow Wise, Bee Smart website, growwise.org,  was recently launched as a key component of the horticulture industry’s Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative, which was created to provide leadership and guidance to the industry on pollinator health. The site serves as the communications hub for the latest research and developments related to the role horticulture plays in supporting pollinator health. Grow Wise, Bee Smart currently features information on the importance of bees and pollinators, threats to their health and steps everyone can take to improve habitat and forage. Links to the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge and Pollinator Partnership further guide retail and landscape firms and their customers on how to plant and register new gardens and habitats for pollinators. As the Grow Wise, Bee Smart stewardship program for plant production is launched, and as funded and directed research yields results and guidance, the site will feature timely new information and insights. Progress […]

Read More
LuxFlora logo feature image

July 5, 2015

Luxflora Wants To Create A Lifestyle Movement

A new organization for women in horticulture plans to take on some of the industry’s toughest marketing challenges by promoting the use of flowers and plants in everyday living.

Read More

June 30, 2015

Opportunities Abound For Women In Horticulture, Says Do…

My love for horticulture goes back to my grandparents who were farmers in upstate New York. My family’s involvement in agriculture left a lasting impression that has spanned decades, and still drives my passion for our industry today. I started my career in horticulture when I owned a greenhouse, nursery and garden center in Sayville, Long Island, N.Y. We specialized in ground cover production, later branching out to producing perennials and bedding plants.     I then went onto wholesale hard goods distribution. In the 1980s, I was the first woman salesperson on Long Island. What an eye opener that was! New York is a very special place, different from anywhere else in the country. You cannot imagine how difficult it was walking into greenhouses and nurseries as a woman, in a man’s world. Luckily, I grew up in New York City in an Italian family, who taught me great […]

Read More
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

June 27, 2015

Perennial Plant Association Wins The 2015 Excellence In…

With its emphasis on education and its Perennial Plant Of The Year program, the Perennial Plant Association boosted the popularity of perennials and helped make it the vital category it is.

Read More