California Cool

California Cool

 

California just wouldn’t be California without its tiled roofs, stucco plastering and palm trees. Back in 1999, that vision of a strong Mediterranean motif to accent West Coast décor and design was an interest that turned into a passion for the Barcelo family, and Barcelo Enterprises was born.

The family wasn’t starting from scratch. In 1981 the family founded its previous business venture, Barcelo Plant Growers (BPG), a bedding and groundcover nursery. When BPG was sold to Color Spot in 1996, the forward-thinking patriarch and president of the family business, Carlos Barcelo, asked that a non-compete agreement specifically exclude palms, which was always an interest for him.

“We discovered a huge void in the marketplace,” says Tony Barcelo, vice president of operations in northern California and Arizona. “At the time, the economy really started to change. Things started to boom and the demand for palm trees heated up. It was a case of being at the right place at the right time.” It was different than the Barcelos’ previous experience with bedding plants and groundcovers. Both have quick turns in production, but a Queen palm liner takes a year to grow and the job is labor intensive.

“I’m always trying to create a better yield in the germination process for the palms, which are very difficult to germinate,” Barcelo says. “We’ve increased our number of growth chambers–converted a lot of coolers into growth chambers.” Everything starts for palms in the greenhouse. From there, production moves outside to harden plants off. Some varieties of sagos are finished in greenhouses, but most everything is moved into the fields. After a very harsh freeze last winter, the necessity of the greenhouses was clear. “Without the greenhouses, in California you could never get it done,” Barcelo says. 

Riding The Bumpy Waves

Barcelo describes early business in palms as a self-fulfilling prophecy–everything the company grew sold, and fast. During the construction boom of the late ’90s, keeping up with demand was a struggle for many suppliers on the West Coast. Since then, business has slowed, a glut in the market has grown and many growers who expanded during the boom now search for outlets for their products.

What’s made the difference for Barcelo Enterprises is its size, product selection and outlook. Its customers include The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Costco, the Star Nursery garden center chain, Orchard Supply Hardware and independent garden centers. Stores like these want the right product mix and consistency from the vendor. With its ability to cover 200 to 300 retail stores at a time, his company can deliver that consistency, Barcelo says.

“The only way you can accomplish that consistency among stores is to have one vendor,” he says. “If you have five or six vendors for every marketplace, it gets kind of hodgepodge and the execution is difficult.” Barcelo Enterprises delivers a consistent look, and its product mix is just as consistent. Looking back over the years, Barcelo says his product mix hasn’t expanded or changed too much. Staples still include sago and Queen palms and the successful addition of tropicals like Bird of Paradise, hibiscus and gardenia. They’ve also returned to poinsettias and garden mums, staples of the BPG days.

“We grow what sells,” he says. “A buyer once told me, ‘You’re cherry picking the top items.’ Well, yeah! I want to make sure I can sell it. I’m focusing on the items that really sell. The market is the market. If they want red petunias, they’re going to buy red petunias–if they buy them from The Home Depot or Lowe’s, wherever.”

What little room there is for new and novelty products, Barcelo Enterprises fills with innovative merchandising–display racks, terra cotta pots, bigger, odd sizes (a hydrangea in a 7-gallon pot) or combination mixes of different palms. A trend is usually a flash in the pan, though, says Barcelo.

“Long term, people will buy it once, maybe twice, but then they need something else, something more exciting,” he says. These ideas create marketshare where none existed. 

The Right Attitude

Barcelo is nothing if not optimistic about his company’s place in the market. Although palms aren’t in demand the way they once were and immigration and transportation are serious challenges, there’s no telling what the future holds, and Barcelo Enterprises is ready for whatever is to come. When growing a crop with a long germination time like palms, the future is always linked to today. And today has been pretty good, considering the challenges the industry faces.

“We’re 18 months into some crops,” Barcelo says. “We’ve got to plant this stuff up whether or not the economy is good. We have to look into the future and hope it is. When the time comes, if you don’t have it, they’ll buy it from someone else.” That same long gestational period also helps insulate new players from entering the marketplace, he points out.

Selling a product that relies on disposable income is another special challenge of the industry, Barcelo comments. And while gasoline prices are a burden for growers, they’re a burden for consumers, as well. He figures the average California commuter now pays between $200 and $400 or so more a month in fuel increases. That’s $400 fewer dollars of disposable income.

“Rich people will keep their gardens looking good, but the masses is where the volume is,” he says. With the ups and downs his market has seen, Barcelo says nothing surprises him anymore and a successful grower needs to be ready for the unexpected.

“You can’t get caught up in the changes,” he says. “You just have to deal with them. We’re in an environment where change is going to happen every year. If you expect it, you’re not surprised by it. When you don’t expect it is when the problems happen.” The talents each Barcelo family member brings to the table are critical. Carlos oversees the company with the input of siblings Tony and Rosa Jr., vice president of operations in southern California. 

Optimistic Outlook 

Tony Barcelo, vice president of Barcelo Enterprises, on business:

– Staying niche-oriented and still growing the business is a great source of pride for Barcelo Enterprises. Between 1999 and 2007, the company has grown from zero to $30 million in sales.

“When I step back and look at what we’ve been able to accomplish, that’s probably the most impressive,” he says.

– “I’m an extreme optimist,” he says. “I always think things are going to be good. We’re fortunate we have a market with 50 million people we service. I think if we make a high-quality product and we can deliver to the tri-state area, we bring a lot of things to the table for a lot of retailers.”

Down The Road

Only good things lie ahead for Barcelo Enterprises if you ask the ever-optimistic grower. Carlos, Rosa and Tony will work in the future to keep developing in the West. Tony says he sees tremendous growth over the next 10 years, acquiring and building greenhouse space when and where it makes sense.

Barcelo Enterprises began with 35 acres of production and has now grown to 450 acres. But it isn’t about becoming a behemoth for Barcelo.

“Our business isn’t about the big picture,” he says. “It’s about the little things.”

Leave a Reply

8 comments on “California Cool

  1. Hello my name is Erik from Mule palm nursery. If you are ever interested in growing the cold hardy hybrid xbutyagrus / mule palm. Please let us know we are certafied to send to california and deal in seedlings and liners. I can provide photos for you if needed. Thank you

  2. Hello my name is Erik from Mule palm nursery. If you are ever interested in growing the cold hardy hybrid xbutyagrus / mule palm. Please let us know we are certafied to send to california and deal in seedlings and liners. I can provide photos for you if needed. Thank you

  3. mi nombre es arturo cabrales alias el buki si me puede dar trabajo trabaje en el invernadero en salinas Ca. pero si tiene un invernadero en el area de los angeles y si tiene trabajo para mi estoy disponible

  4. I just bought a Hydrangea (purple) no plant spike instructions given. The only thing on the pot said that it is from Barcelo Ent. in Salinas with no phone or website. I need to know the care of this plant so I can plant it correctly. Please advise or give me info to get in touch with Barcelo. Thanks

Latest Stories
Obscura Screens From Svensson feature

July 28, 2016

3 New Products For Cannabis Producers

From screens to fertilizers to lighting, here are three new products that might help enhance your cannabis production system.

Read More
Cannabis Structure

July 28, 2016

How To Maximize The Efficiency Of Your Cannabis Structu…

The up-front costs of creating your cannabis facility may be high, but at least one expert says making the investment now will be well worth it down the road.

Read More
Cannabis Crop Protection

July 28, 2016

Solving The Cannabis Crop Protection Problem

A largely unregulated sector of the industry, state departments of agriculture, biocontrols companies, and other industry pros are dedicated to helping growers make the right pesticide decisions for their operations.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Adv…

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

How Your Retail Plant Sales Practices Compare

Editor’s note: Greenhouse Grower RETAILING asked growers and retailers to share their pricing methods in a survey sent out in mid June 2016. Of the 362 responses, 202 arefrom those whose primary business is garden retail. We will be sharing the results of what we learned throughout July, August, and September 2016.   Discounting plants is a finely wielded weapon for plant retailers, Greenhouse Grower RETAILING‘s Plant Pricing Survey shows. It will come as no surprise that just about everyone holds sales at some point (93%). And so it makes sense that some expertise is shown. Take this first graph as an example. The most perishable plants — small annuals and vegetables — are the most likely to be placed on sale. That seems counter-intuitive. Why place the fastest turning inventory on sale? But when we took a closer look, we found that these sales are being used to lure […]

Read More
IGC 2016 Valley Forge Casino Resort

July 25, 2016

New Products You Can See At EIGC

With all exhibitor booths sold out at both EIGC and IGC Chicago, there will be plenty of new products for attendees to check out.

Read More
Aphids On Older Leaves

July 25, 2016

How You Can Stop Aphids By Understanding Their Interact…

Knowing which aphids target which crops and how aphids colonize and move on plants goes a long way toward setting up an effective management plan.

Read More
Jeremy Kingsley

July 25, 2016

Cultivate Keynote Speaker Highlights Seven Principles O…

In his morning keynote address at Cultivate’16, best-selling author and speaker Jeremy Kingsley noted that if you want to make your business better, the process should start with making your people better by inspiring them.

Read More
Top 100 2016 Lighting Feature Image

July 24, 2016

Horticultural Lighting Conference To Take Place In Chic…

The one-day event is designed to provide cutting-edge information on the latest technologies and techniques impacting the advancement of the horticultural lighting market.

Read More

July 23, 2016

AmericanHort Kicks Off Cultivate’16 By Announcing Major…

Even though Cultivate’16 just wrapped up, it’s not too early to find out about the many changes you can expect for 2017.

Read More
Workers

July 23, 2016

5 Reasons To Invest In Employee Training

Training and developing your employees is critical to the future success of your organization and the horticulture industry at large. Here are five reasons why your employees are worth the effort.

Read More
Pleasant View Gardens Savor Edibles

July 22, 2016

Pleasant View Gardens Targets Millennials With Savor Ed…

Taking something as ubiquitous as vegetables and herbs and giving it a fresh new look is no easy task, but Pleasant View Gardens took on the challenge with extensive research and creative marketing.

Read More
Dummen New Columbus Office

July 21, 2016

Dümmen Orange Opens New North American Headquarters In …

The new office, which officially opened during Cultivate’16, supports the company’s vision to be integrated into a vibrant and inspiring community, and provides a bright, modern workspace for its approximately 30 local employees.

Read More
BeeSmart

July 21, 2016

How You Can Get Involved In Research

The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) supports scientific research and students for the advancement of the horticultural industry.

Read More
Pollen Free Lisianthus

July 20, 2016

Sakata Seed Develops World’s First Pollen-Free Lisianth…

With no stamen to produce pollen, the new Lisianthus varieties have improved flower durability and the benefit of no scattered pollen that can cause staining of flowers and machines.

Read More
Floral Greenhouse at Vineland Research Centre

July 20, 2016

Research And Commercialization Unite At The New Vinelan…

The new, pre-scale commercial greenhouse facility at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Vineland Station, ON, will help accelerate the commercialization of innovative technologies and products coming out of research.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]