Nash Greenhouse: Learning On The Fly

Nash Greenhouse: Learning On The Fly

Howard Nash didn’t grow up in a family greenhouse business like so many others have. And the first industries in which he worked–electronics and medical transcriptions–had little to do with greenhouse floriculture.

But it’s Nash’s other experiences, as well as his son Mark’s, that make Nash Greenhouse unique. The father-and-son team jumped cold turkey into the industry when it purchased the Kalamazoo operation formerly known as Dick’s Greenhouse in 2003. Back then, the Nash family was working with 8 ½ acres of production space. But in the seven years since, the operation has expanded to nearly 25 acres considering all the plant material that ultimately flows through Nash Greenhouse.

“Our investment is going great,” Howard says. “We’ve had growth. We’ve been very blessed. We have taken a different approach than a lot of other people, too. We like to be a little more diversified. We don’t have all our eggs in one basket. We’re working with a lot of different brokers, we broker a lot of material ourselves and we have a lot of different customers.”

New Beginning

Nash Greenhouse didn’t land those customers overnight, though. Before the father-and-son team purchased the operation, Howard spent a year working for the previous owner learning the business and hammering out details for the transition. The year Howard spent working for the previous owner also gave Mark, whose background is accounting and finance, the chance to determine whether a purchase made sense.

Nash Greenhouse

Owners: Howard and Mark Nash

Location: Kalamazoo, Mich.

Size: 650,000 square feet of greenhouse space

Crops: Flowering potted plants, herbs, ornamental bedding plants, vegetables and plugs and propagation

Markets: Independent garden centers and other growers

“There were some changes the previous owner let me make immediately,” Howard says. “I was able to cut quite a bit of payroll, and we actually saved him some money that year. The first year here we added some shade cloth in certain areas–he had no shade cloth except in one glass house–and we took out nine heaters.”

Still, because the Nashes had no greenhouse floriculture experience, it was important they find and add people who could help in areas like production, sales and marketing.

Fortunately, one of Mark’s childhood friends, Chad Earles, was a grower and looking for a job at the time the Nashes made their investment. And Dan Triemstra, another grower Howard knew through a broker, came aboard after closing his own business.

Ric Stevens, director of sales and marketing, is another key player at Nash Greenhouse. He joined the operation in 2006 and helped diversify it with new crops and customers.”Because Mark and I didn’t know the industry, it was our job to find the best people and rely on their expertise,” Howard says. “We let those people have a lot of input. When we make big decisions, we get the input from our growers. Even our salespeople are involved in them. We want their input to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Stevens, for one, appreciates Howard’s and Mark’s open approach.

“I knew these two were really good business guys,” says Stevens, who previously worked for the Kalamazoo Flower Group. “I actually approached them with an idea because I knew they had all of their eggs in one basket.

“I had a pretty good feel for what was going on in the industry at the time. Consolidation was starting to happen. I could see a lot of these operations growing so many items, and it’s so much easier when you grow fewer items and more of them. You create a lot of efficiencies that way.”

Now, spring production is largely Wave petunias. Fall mums are also grown at Nash Greenhouse, but poinsettias and Christmas crops are items the operation avoids.

“You’ve got to have a good base to start,” Mark says. “If you’re starting out in the hole or making negative margin, why even put the effort into it? We kind of tried that one time, when we thought we were going to gain efficiencies by doing big bulk runs of material. From the start, I knew we were barely making any margin.”

There are times, of course, when Nash Greenhouse will take less margin to help a customer in a single instance or add value to a customer relationship. There is, however, a fine line between taking less margin on crops once and taking less margin regularly.

“If, for example, we’re growing Waves for a greenhouse and they also want us to do a premium program, I could take less margin on it if it’s a breaking point,” Mark says. “Then, I’m helping a customer but also hitting my sweet spot with the Waves.”

Continuous Reinvestment

Much of the material Nash Greenhouse grows–Waves included–is produced for large operations serving the box stores. The Nashes, of course, are aware those operations could add greenhouse space at any time and eliminate a chunk of their business. But as long as Nash Greenhouse continues to provide quality plants and outstanding service, the Nashes believe contract growing makes sense for them.

And because the operation has achieved double-digit sales growth over the last four years, the Nashes are planning to expand their production space sometime over the next few years.

“We cleared a lot of property to add on and we’ve done a lot of looking at greenhouse structures,” Mark says. “But we have to decide how big is too big and how big we want to become. Or, is it better to buy an existing facility?”

For the time being, Nash’s “Heinz 57″ greenhouse facility will have to do.

“We have wooden ranges that were hand made–Van Wingerdens, Rough (Brothers), Westbrook (Greenhouse Systems) greenhouses and old A-frames,” Mark says. “One of our goals is to eventually take the A-frames down so we can put in shade curtains, floor heat, booms and other technologies where we want them.”

Perhaps the biggest change Nash Greenhouse has made in its eight years is to widen a middle aisle so material can more easily be moved from greenhouses to loading docks. The aisle also serves as a facility midpoint where new greenhouses can be built in the place of old ones on each side.

“You have to continually invest in the business, and something as simple as making aisles wider is just that,” Stevens says. “Before, we had multiple orders getting loaded at one time and, obviously, we need more docks. But now we can better utilize the docks we do have. Even scheduling trucks is easier now.”

Nash Greenhouse still has more work to do, but the plan is to continually reinvest assuming sales growth continues.
As for Howard’s and Mark’s futures: Greenhouse floriculture is most likely the last industry in which Howard will work, and Mark plans to be involved in coming years but perhaps at a lesser extent.

“For me, I look at this as a business investment that, down the road, I hope others can handle more of the day-to-day operations,” Mark says. “I’ve got three young kids, and they love coming down here. If they want to take over someday, this is something that would be here for them. But it’s a double-edged sword for me: How long do I stick around, and do I keep it in the family? You’ve got to be smart about it.”

Leave a Reply

More From Top 100 Growers...
Hendriks-Half-Open-Roof_GGS

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environments

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Horticulture Priorities

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadlines Approaching

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More
Latest Stories
Crop Protection Of The Future

March 11, 2015

Help Us Find Out How Crop Protection Has Changed Among …

Is your environmentally controlled greenhouse production area 500,000 square feet or larger? If so, we want to hear from you. Please take our Top 100 Growers survey to help us get an accurate picture of our industry from the perspective of our largest operations.

Read More
Top 100

September 18, 2014

The Top 100 Growers On Merchandising

See what Greenhouse Grower's Top 100 Growers have to say about merchandising changes over the last 10 years in our 2014 Top Grower Survey

Read More

September 18, 2014

The Top 100 Growers Talk Pollinator Health

The panel of experts at Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Top 100 Growers Breakfast offered insight on how the industry is addressing the public scrutiny on neonicotinoids, research that still needs to be done and what growers can do to promote their operations’ responsible practices.

Read More
Top 100

August 29, 2014

2014 Top 100 Grower List

The 2014 Top 100 Growers list represents the largest greenhouse operations in the United States.

Read More
Gary Mangum

August 12, 2014

What Bell Nursery Learned From Growing Without Neonicot…

Determined to find out firsthand what a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides would mean for growers, Bell Nursery CEO Gary Mangum challenged his team to grow without them. Read to find out about the lessons he learned.

Read More
Top 100

May 14, 2014

2014 Top 100 Growers [Whitepaper]

Get the full set of data from our 2014 survey, including how the Top 100 Growers have changed their crop mix over the last 10 years.

Read More

May 13, 2014

The Top 100 Growers Find Diversity Provides More Securi…

Growers continue to broaden their crop offerings, provide more retail merchandising and market their own crops through social media, in an effort to increase sales.

Read More
Top 100

April 29, 2014

2014 Top 100 List Shows Growers Are Expanding

Grower acquisitions throughout the year, bankruptcy, closed doors, new operations, reduced square footage and changing business status have reconstructed Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers list, yet again.

Read More
Top 100

February 18, 2014

Help Us Find Out How Crop Mixes Have Changed Among The …

Is your environmentally controlled greenhouse production area 650,000 square feet or larger? If so, we want to hear from you.

Read More
Richard Jones

August 16, 2013

iPads, Automobile Cameras And The Future Of Your Busine…

Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers Breakfast has become a great annual event during OFA Short Course. We get together with representatives from the country’s largest greenhouse operations to talk about trends and developments in different areas of the business. And while the meeting is targeted for the Top 100, there are invariably interesting lessons that apply to growers across the board. This year’s breakfast featured a panel discussion on “The Even-Higher-Tech Future Of The Top 100.” (You can read about some of the highlights from the event on page 32.) Our panelists included Gary Falkenstein, president and CEO of the new online live goods broker, ePlantSource; Paul Pilon, owner of Perennial Solutions Consulting; and Charles Grinnell, COO of Harvest Automation (whose plant-moving robots were one of the highlights on the trade show floor at Short Course this year). They shared their opinions on what exciting new developments growers may have […]

Read More

August 16, 2013

The Even-Higher-Tech-Future Of The Top 100 Grower

As part of Greenhouse Grower’s 30th anniversary celebration, we’ve been taking a look at the current state of various segments of our industry in 2013. But there’s also value in looking ahead at — and preparing for — the next 10, 20 or 30 years. “The Even-Higher-Tech Future Of The Top 100 Grower” was the theme for Greenhouse Grower’s annual Top 100 Growers Breakfast, held during OFA Short Course. The Top 100 program was sponsored by BASF. The breakfast featured a panel discussion with experts in web technology, robotics and production: Gary Falkenstein, president and CEO of ePlantSource, Charles Grinnell, COO of Harvest Automation and Paul Pilon, owner of Perennial Solutions Consulting. Each shared his vision of the future and identified readily available technologies and opportunites that growers should be exploring for their business today. Where are the Top 100 Growers on the technology curve? Falkenstein: On the technology side, […]

Read More
Hermann Engelmanns Sandra Kitain, Chuck Romagnoli and Erin Leonard

August 12, 2013

Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses Reaches Out To Consumers …

Do you grow foliage and houseplants? If not, it might be time to consider it. In a recent Today’s Garden Center magazine survey, of those garden retailers who carry houseplants, 54.3 percent report an increase in sales in 2013. Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses reports good news, as well, with a 5 percent increase within the foliage segment in the past year. So how does the operation plan to keep the good times rolling? The formula for this grower includes marketing directly to the consumer through in-store materials, a loaded website and an active social media presence. But the message being broadcast through all these media is the same — to inspire the customer to create home décor designs and to educate with plant care tips that will turn timid gardeners into experts. “We want to transition our product from a commodity item to a home décor item,” says Erin Leonard, director […]

Read More

June 26, 2013

Metrolina Greenhouses Enters Purchase Agreement To Buy …

Metrolina Greenhouses, based in Huntersville, N.C., has entered into a purchase agreement to buy the assets of Stacy’s Greenhouses, Inc. pending U.S. bankruptcy court approval. “As part of Metrolina’s continuing expansion, the proposed asset acquisition of Stacy’s will improve our business growth as we continue with our 2025 Vision plan,” says Abe VanWingerden, co-CEO of Metrolina Greenhouses. “Stacy’s perennial business is a natural addition to our current product lineup as we continue to provide new and innovative solutions and concepts for our retail partners. “Additionally, by making this asset purchase, we will be able to honor and extend the business legacy of Mr. Stacy as he and my father, Tom VanWingerden, were both pioneers in this industry who worked together on many projects over the years as they both started in their businesses in the early 1970s. Combining the work of these two visionary leaders into one company makes logical sense.” […]

Read More

June 24, 2013

Stacy’s Greenhouses Files For Bankruptcy

Stacy’s Inc. has filed for Chaper 11 bankruptcy protection in order to facilitate an upcoming sale. “The process is going forward the way we had hoped,” says Stacy’s President Tim Brindley. “The court has approved a working budget to keep everything moving forward through July 26, and we have another hearing soon to approve a budget through August.” With the company going through Chapter 11 proceedings, any sale will be an asset purchase rather than a sale of the company. The business will no longer carry the Stacy’s name. “We have been in negotiations with a potential buyer for several months, and have a signed asset purchase agreement in place,” Brindley says. “Everything has to be approved by the courts and there are a lot of steps that still have to take place, but the goal is to have the sale complete by the end of August. The sale of Stacy’s […]

Read More

May 28, 2013

Rocket Farms Launches New Interactive Website

Rocket Farms has launched a new website to support the brand’s innovative approach that focuses on fun, creativity and interaction with the consumer. Offering a clean, modern look, the new RocketFarms.com offers a wide variety of information on the company and its products, the Rocket Farms Wholesale Center and product inspirations. In an effort to cater to today’s mobile consumers, the new website is compatible for viewing on all media devices, including PC, mobile phones and tablet devices. The website will continue to evolve as additional enhancements and new information are added to appeal to consumers’ changing interests and expand the product interaction portions of the website. The most exciting and original part of the website is Inspirations. An online reference guide for consumers to find fun and unique ideas for selecting and enjoying Rocket Farms products, Inspirations includes recipes, design ideas, inspirational concepts, and more. Visitors can then share […]

Read More
Top 100

May 6, 2013

Top 100 Growers 2013: The State Of Production

  As part of Greenhouse Grower’s 30th Anniversary, we reviewed the state of production among the nation’s largest operations. Our 2013 Top 100 Growers Survey, sponsored by Becker Underwood, asked three big questions to get a feel for where they see the biggest developments in greenhouse production. Innovations First, we asked them to identify the most important innovation in the greenhouse industry in the last 30 years. We got a variety of opinions, including integrated pest management, bottom heat and heat curtains, open roof greenhouses, plugs and other growing techniques and computer-based environmental controls. Most commonly cited were breeding improvements, hydroponic production and the big winner, automation and transplanters. “It’s not even close,” one respondent said. “Transplanters are the best innovation we’ve seen. To plant at the speed we do now, we would have to put 30 people on each production line.” Improvements Next, we asked them to tell us […]

Read More
Top 100

May 6, 2013

Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Growers: The 2013 List

It’s not necessarily an indication of a top-to-bottom trend in the horticulture industry, but one thing is clear from the results of the 2013 Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Grower survey: The largest greenhouse operations in the U.S are getting larger. Perhaps it’s a sign of things turning around after several years of a stagnant economy and an evolving customer base. Maybe the greenhouse industry is just continuing a shakeout, with the largest operations absorbing the production and space of growers who are leaving the market. Could be it’s simply the big continuing to get bigger to take advantage of the production efficiencies size can offer big retail customers and the growers’ own bottom lines. It’s likely some combination of all three. Whatever the reason, nearly a third of the growers in Greenhouse Grower’s 2013 Top 100 survey reported growth. Some of them significantly so. Ups And Downs Greenhouse Grower’s annual […]

Read More

April 29, 2013

Rockwell Farms Introduces Ready-To-Pour Container Ferti…

Rockwell Farms has introduced Rockwell Farms Plant Food, a bottled liquid fertilizer that does not need to be diluted before use. Always looking for ways to help the consumer succeeed, Jason Roseman of Rockwell Farms says the operation is also always looking for ways to get consumers to come back and buy more plants and flowers. “We feel like fertilization is one of those things that can be very confusing,” Roseman says. “Not everyone does it, and not everyone knows what they’re supposed to do.” The solution: Rockwell Farms Plant Food. The formulation is 150 ppm of a 20-10-20 fertilizer and is sold in 24-ounce bottles. Rockwell recommends that one bottle be used to fertilize 1.5- to 3-gallon outdoor plant and flower containers every 21 days. The product’s signage shows a young patio gardener pouring the bottled fertilizer on a windowbox with the tagline, “Just pour on your way out […]

Read More