Suppliers Comment on Plant Genetics’ Fate After EuroAmerican Propagators’ Bankruptcy

John Rader of Proven Winners’ EuroAmerican Propagators talks about Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms,’ winner of the Editor’s Choice award
John Rader of EuroAmerican Propagators accepted the honors for Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms,’ winner of the Editor’s Choice award, during Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Evening of Excellence ceremony.

News broke a few weeks ago that Bonsall, CA-based EuroAmerican Propagators would be closing its doors after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Jan. 23, 2017.

The young plant and finished plant grower produced plants for more than 20 breeders. Situated on 55 acres of land in Southern California, the operation was founded in 1992.

The operation’s closing was attributed by industry sources to EuroAmerican Propagators co-owners John Rader and Jerry Church parting ways. Church was looking to get out of the business, but a new partner for the business was not forthcoming. Timing dictated that the business file Chapter 7 and liquidate the business.

According to the California Southern Bankruptcy Court, EuroAmerican Propagators filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy with $50,000 or less in assets and up to $10 million in liabilities. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy case does not involve the filing of repayment as in other chapters. Instead, the bankruptcy trustee gathers and sells non-exempt assets and uses the proceeds of such assets to pay creditors in accordance with the Bankruptcy Code, according to the U.S. Courts. Certain exempt property can be kept, but the trustee will liquidate the debtor’s remaining assets.

A statement on EuroAmerican Propagators’ web site says, “At this time we would like to say, thank you. We have appreciated all of our customers’ business over the past 26 years. We have received an outpouring of understanding and hopeful comments from many customers. We understand that this is not ideal and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We are concerned for our employees, suppliers, growers, and all those we have affected at this time. Unfortunately, this was the only option for EuroAmerican Propagators. We hope for the best.”

Since the bankruptcy filing, suppliers associated with EuroAmerican Propagators have updated Greenhouse Grower on what the operation’s bankruptcy means for them, and how it will impact grower customers.

HGTV HOME Plant Collection

The alliance between HGTV HOME with EuroAmerican Propagators served to provide easy ordering and better production management for licensed growers in the program.

The HGTV HOME partnership with EuroAmerican Propagators was announced prior to the 2016 California Spring Trials, where HGTV HOME highlighted the benefits of having one open liner source. Where previously material was shipped from a number of sources, the brand was hopeful the streamlined shipping solution through EuroAmerican would allow growers to improve production management with all combo kit components, and branded pots and tags shipping and arriving at the same time.

“The HGTV HOME Plant Collection is still in full force. The only difference is that EuroAmerican is not a liner source now,” says Sarah Rolfes, an Account Manager with Agricola Management Group, LLC, the exclusive licensee of HGTV HOME Plant Collection. “The program continues to be available through our licensed grower network.”

Currently HGTV HOME is working on solidifying a supplier for the open liner network, Rolfes says. Meanwhile, the licensed growers in the HGTV HOME program are able to buy live inputs from rooting stations working with Dümmen Orange, Rolfes says.

Where previously it planned to participate at EuroAmerican Propagators’ California Spring Trials (CAST) location, the HGTV HOME program will not have a display this year. In years past, it participated in the Dümmen Orange Edna Valley Vineyards location during CAST. Instead HGTV HOME Plants representatives will travel and observe during CAST this year to see what its partners are doing, Rolfes says.

Last year, EuroAmerican moved its California Spring Trials back to its Bonsall headquarters, providing an in-ground trial meant to simulate real growing conditions with real-life challenges in the garden.

Soiree catharanthus

Suntory Flowers

With changes in the supply chain, including the closing of EuroAmerican Propagators, Suntory Flowers is making moves to allow more growers to produce its genetics.

“Effective July 1, both Senetti pericallis and Soiree catharanthus will be open to the entire market as unrooted cuttings and as rooted through our Suntory root-and-sell grower network in 2017-2018,” says Delilah Onofrey, License Manager for Suntory Flowers, North America.

Previously, Suntory Flowers worked with just a few licensed rooting stations, with EuroAmerican Propagators playing a leading role launching each of the brands.

Proven Winners

Proven Winners’ founding partners were (Top, from left) Henry Huntington, John Rader, Tom Smith and Jeff Huntington. (Seated) Sharon Smith and Jerry Church.

With the news of EuroAmerican Propagators’ closing, and because of its most commonly known association as a founding member and licensed grower for Proven Winners, growers sourcing young plants from EuroAmerican immediately took action to find out what would happen to their spring orders of Proven Winners annuals and perennials liners.

Although it was a scramble, says Proven Winners Executive Director Mark Broxon, all annuals liner orders were able to be filled through Proven Winners licensees Four Star Greenhouses in Carleton, MI, and Pleasant View Gardens in Loudon, NH; many perennial orders were filled through Walters’ Gardens in Zeeland, MI; and shrub liners were already being filled through Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand Haven, MI.

“All of the propagators are working really hard right now to fulfill orders moved from EuroAmerican Propagators, but I’m confident we’ll be fine,” Broxon said in late January.

While the closing of EuroAmerican Propagators is unfortunate, and the timing was not ideal due to the beginning of the spring season, when growers were expecting their liners, Broxon says, the other Proven Winners licensees are more than capable of covering all Proven Winners orders thanks to expanded facilities and existing transportation lines from each of the operations’ facilities that already ship liners to customers all over the country. No additional licensees are planned to be added on the West Coast.

EuroAmerican Propagators had been diverting slightly from the Proven Winners business in recent years, and had already been selling less volume of both Proven Winners annuals and Proven Selections annuals than Pleasant View Gardens and Four Star Greenhouses, Broxon says.

“While the grower and retailer audience is important, the consumer is another key focus of the Proven Winners brand,” Broxon says. “Consumer awareness of the brand has never been higher.”

Other Breeders

It is still unclear what will happen with some of the different genetics, such as the Celestial Gems succulents and Savvy Succulents lines. Perhaps a new business will emerge in the future.

Meanwhile, industry sources tell us the land and facilities, which are still owned by Church, are currently being rented out for other ventures.

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