As part of Greenhouse Grower’s 25th anniversary celebration, we are profiling industry people we expect to shape the industry for the better over the next 25 years. Now in its 10th week online, our Ones To Watch series continues with Charlie Cole of Cole Gardens.
His Job–Charlie is general manager at Cole Gardens, the retail location. His job in New Hampshire is to take care of day-to-day operations, marketing and advertising and purchasing trees and shrubs, hardgoods and perennials. The most important part of his job, he says, is customer service. “It is exciting to help customers find solutions to their garden problems or find the perfect plant to finish a garden,” Charlie says.
Learning Early–Growing up, Charlie and his dad, Doug, had discussions about the business and changes in the industry. Charlie got involved with OFA during college because of his dad, and he learned the notion from his dad that “respect is earned and not given,” as well.
Give In To Your Gut–The best advice Charlie has received thus far is to increase prices. “A lot of us are scared to try and squeeze an extra dollar or two from our customers,” he says. “It is only going to get harder to make money. We raised our prices and have not looked back on the decision.”
In The Works–Cole Gardens is in the process of developing a layout for the entire store, focusing on customer flow and better organization of the outdoor departments.
Twenty-Five Years From Now–The term “garden center” will cease to exist. Customers now want to decorate their outdoor areas for entertainment rather than garden, and that means more furniture, garden art, decorative structures and ready-made containers will have to be available. So garden centers will become backyard decorators, in a sense, and that’s why the Cole Gardens store slogan is, “Helping you decorate with living color.”
Why He’s One To Watch–At 26, Charlie isn’t afraid to take risks or try something new in the business. He is involved in two of OFA’s planning committees, and he has played a key role in shaping Cole Gardens into the successful retail operation that it is.