Sometimes you have to look in unusual places for customers and gamble on a new market. Or, in the case of Top 100 Grower Milgro Nursery in Newcastle, Utah, you take the plants to where the gambling is.
For most of the last decade, Milgro, whose primary customers are grocery stores, has found a niche providing several of the larger casinos in Las Vegas, Nev., with the potted flowers and plants they need for their indoor displays.
While sales to casinos are only a small part of Milgro’s revenue, this market provides a convenient outlet since plants can be drop-shipped on the way to other customers in California. It also gives the staff a chance to be creative and grow some less-traditional varieties of plants.
We caught up with Neil Watson, general manager of Milgro Nursery, to talk about the unique opportunities and challenges in growing for public displays.
GG: What do you like about working with the casinos?
Watson: The casinos want pizzazz — it’s Vegas! It’s more flamboyant. They want new, exciting and different. Either they have their finger on the pulse of what’s coming out or we show them ideas and plants we think will fit their displays.
A real advantage is you’re not putting the care information, pot cover, mylar or any kind of dressing up on the plant because they will be dropped into a mass planting in
GG: One recent display you did was with the Bellagio for the Chinese New Year. What kind of planning did that involve?
Watson: It was a great fit for us, since our bread-and-butter crop is mums, and they wanted mums for this display. The Chinese New Year is very traditional, so we used the traditional mums associated with that. We brought in the big, yellow, decorative, incurved varieties. But they also wanted some of the new single-stem types. We grew Syngenta’s ‘Shanghai Red,’ ‘Golden Gate,’ ‘Pittsburgh Purple’ and ‘San Francisco’ for this display. We sent four shipments of 4,000 pots each every other week for a total of 16,000 pots.
GG: What are some of the challenges working with this kind of client?
Watson: Whether you’re shipping to a Kroger or a casino, you still have to turn in the right quality. But you have to be a bit color-sensitive with the casinos. If you show them a picture and they match that to a fabric or another part of the display, it’s hard when the color changes throughout the year.
A supermarket isn’t going to get upset about what shade of bronze they get, as long as they get bronze. But the casinos might need a specific color. We work a little closer with them on Pantone colors and tell them if there’s going to be a fluctuation in the flower color depending on the season.
GG: What other crops do you grow for the casinos besides mums?
Watson: After the Chinese New Year display, we started weekly shipments of Dutch bulbs — tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, etc. — which continue for about 10 to 11 weeks. We do a lot of fall mums with the casinos, as well. In one year, we supply somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 plants to the Bellagio and several other casinos in Las Vegas. GG