Armstrong Buys Pike Stores

A bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of 15 Pike Family Nurseries retail locations to California-based Armstrong Garden Centers for $5.2 million. Meanwhile, growers on Pike’s list of creditors are waiting to hear if they will receive any money owed.

The 50-year-old family business founded by William “Pete” Pike and more recently owned by Roark Capital was auctioned off in four pieces, totaling $7.9 million. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

  • Armstrong will take over all 15 metro Atlanta stores and the store in Charlotte, N.C., for $5.2 million. The stores will continue under the Pike name.
  • Gary Pike will pay $490,000 for the plant inventory of two Pike wholesale store and lease back the Tucker wholesale store. He owns a garden center called Gary’s Garden Center and runs a wholesale business called Gary Pike’s Plants, selling plants to interiorscapers.
  • Skinner Nurseries in Jacksonville, Fla., will purchase the inventory and leases of two Pike stores for $1 million.
  • The Geo. Schofield Co. in Bridgewater, N.J., will buy all the stone inventory at two Pike wholeslae stores for $1.2 million and keep one of the stores open. 

According to Dun & Bradstreet, at one time the Pike chain had revenues of $68 million, including the wholesale and landscaping divisions.

According to bankruptcy court records, Pike owned $5.6 million to its 20 largest unsecured creditors, which included growers. It is uncertain at this point if the $7.9 million will leave enough for them after secured debts are paid.

At the very top of the list is Monrovia in California, which is owed $716,779. Next is Wight Nurseries in Atlanta, Ga., which is owed $689,289.

On the greenhouse growing side, Wenke Greenhouse in Kalamazoo, Mich., and sister division Sunbelt Greenhouses in Douglas, Ga., are owed more than $500,000 for summer and fall crops. Owner Dennis Wenke says he’s very happy about the sale to Armstrong but has not heard if the growers will be able to get any of their money back.

“It will be a miracle if we get money back,” he says. “I think the money is gone. We’re anticipating nothing but will be delighted if we do get money back. I’m just thrilled to death that a reputable company will be taking over their garden centers in Atlanta. Pike is one of our key accounts. We will be sending our first shipments for spring this week.”

Another regional grower on the list is Jim Snyder of Riverbend Nursery, with operations in Virginia and Georgia. Pike owes Riverbend about $157,000 for perennials and seasonal outdoor color items. “We are glad Pikes was sold as a whole. Pike is a long-standing name and we look forward to moving to help them rebuild,” Snyder says. 

INDUSTRY REACTION

 

The industry’s reaction to Armstrong Garden Centers taking over the Pike stores has been very positive. Armstrong has 34 stores in California and is 100 percent employee owned. Pike was the second largest independent garden center chain, with Armstrong being the largest.

Armstrong also is a member of ECGC, an alliance of leading independent garden centers throughout the United States. Fellow ECGC garden centers include: Petittia garden Centers in greater Cleveland, Massachusetts-based Mahoney’s Garden Centers and Al’s Garden Center in Oregon.

“I think the opportunity for Armstrong’s is awesome,” AJ Petitti of Petitti Garden Centers says. “They have a great organization.”

“It is very exciting news and I believe they will do a great job in Atlanta,” says Mahoney’s Peter Mahoney, noting that the people at Armstrong’s will see to Pike’s success. “Although they will face different challenges on the east coast that they did not see on the west coast, (Armstrong’s) has the people that will be up for the task. We support them 110 percent.”

Jack Bigej of Al’s Garden Center expressed similar sentiments. “I am wholeheartedly in support of Armstrong’s move, which will have them running garden centers coast to coast. With their strong systems in place, they should be able to easily handle being in two places at one time. It’ll be fun to watch their success,” he says.

Charles Hall, who is based in Georgia and directs Garden Centers of America, also is pleased to hear the news. “To me, this is the best outcome for the growers and vendors who serve Pike and the consumers who shop there. It’s a godsend that a company like Armstrong is able to come to the rescue,” he says.

Bob Jacobson, a consultant who’s been in the industry in Atlanta for 23 years and was formerly in charge of lawn & garden for Home Depot, says the deal presents an excellent opportunity. “There’s never been a better opportunity if the new owners deliver the service Pike is known for, the color Armstrong is known for and bring the stores into 21st century retail,” he says.

Our own Contributing Editor Allan Armitage at the University of Georgia agrees. “Pike’s is as much a part of the Atlanta landscape as the Braves and Sidney Marcus,” he says. “To have Pike’s disappear would leave a large hole horticulturally for the community and professionally for the gardener. I am very pleased that the Pike’s name will still be part of Northeast Georgia; she may be going through tough times, but we are family here, and Pike’s is part of our family. She may be different, but she will still be ours.”

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