Dill Greenhouse Is Making The Most Of A Mature Market

Dill Greenhouse Is Making The Most Of A Mature Market

Alan Gunn, Colleen Sapp, Kevin Taylor and Jerry Dill.
Dill Greenhouse’s Alan Gunn, Colleen Sapp, Kevin Taylor
and Jerry Dill.

From a stack on his desk, a smudged Post-it note sits scribbled with heirloom tomato names. The task at hand is to decide if the tomato-tasting event at Dill’s Greenhouse should go on. Day-after-day summer downpours and, subsequently, hot temperatures were not kind to the heirlooms this growing season.

Jerry Dill can see his greenhouse business from the retailer’s point of view. He believes he will be as successful as the gardeners who buy from him. If they are not, his greenhouse will lose out. Dill thinks his business is impacted by (in this order): how much weather they get, the economy, what the business does to itself and the ever-maturing green industry.

Without hesitation, Dill says, “Garden retailing and growing is a weather-related business – 2009 proved that. It was one of the best springs weather wise with record sales.” Contrast 2009 to 2011, in which Dill lost 10 percent in sales, and he’ll admit “April killed us.”

Adjusting In Retailing & Growing Plants

Known in the area for its pond plants and equipment, Dill’s Greenhouse has maintained a regular following of customers. But, Jerry cautions, it is a specialty business with little margin for error. Carrying live fish was time consuming and not productive, so he gave it up.

Dill is out of the koi business but he did invest in a large Dingo auger his landscaping team uses to plant the 4-inch caliper trees sold from their nursery. “The guys love it,” he says. “It’s nothing special but we have the equipment for the work we do.”

Sizing Up Dill’s Greenhouse

Dill’s Greenhouse began in 1983. Dill’s sits on the site of the original Sim’s Greenhouse. The four original greenhouses, circa 1923, have been replaced by 20 greenhouses, of which two are set aside for retail. The sales floor and office space behind the front facing barn wall, an annex and pole barn complete the structures on Dill’s 10 acre property.

The total greenhouse space is 75,600 square feet, the courtyard 9,654 square feet, perennial space is 8,833, square feet and nursery space is 27,832 square feet. Annual sales in 2011, is estimated at between 2.5 to 3 million dollars. Of that amount, approximately $100,000 comes from the Fall Festival, $200,000 from landscaping and $150,000 from retail and wholesale holiday sales.

Dill’s Greenhouse is a full-service and delivery landscaper, the department being managed by a full-time landscape designer. Not focusing on hardscapes, Dill carries most of the plant materials used in its projects. The business started offering landscaping services in 2006, developing it into another revenue stream. But in retrospect, with new construction impacted by the housing bubble, Dill thinks his landscaping business probably started at an inopportune time.

Dill is confident about filling parking lots in April, May and June. It is after July and in the offseason when attracting customers remains the challenge to independent growers like him. While weather is his number one issue, and yes, there is still the economy to worry about, he also feels the industry is maturing and being ruined by overproduction, causing sales growth to stagnate.

It is clear that selling mums in full bloom in mid-July, when his Ohio customers will want them blooming in September and October, is not how Dill wants to run his greenhouse. He knows new is good but what looks good in the greenhouse in May is only one part of the strategy. He wants to know what the plants will look like in mid-summer.

“Breeders should focus on drought tolerant or, should I say, low-maintenance plants,” Dill says.

A Family Business

Upstairs from the main entrance of Dill Greenhouse are the informal offices of Dill and Colleen Sapp, one of his daughters who serves as office manager. Sapp points out a series of photos along one wall depicting Dill’s beginnings preserved in dime-store frames. At the start, she and her sister, Kelly Brandewie, were young girls.

Brandewie is the retail manager for Dill’s Greenhouse and her influence is seen in the eclectic assortment of containers and the dramatic planter combinations popular at Dill’s. In the courtyard, which includes the fish pond and perennial and nursery displays, are the entrances to the retail greenhouses.

Dill’s undergraduate work at Ohio State University was devoted to marketing, not horticulture. But he paid his dues and gained 10 years of experience working for another grower before making his move to owner along with his partner and co-owner, Eileen Dill.

In 1983, he purchased the property of a wholesale greenhouse in Groveport, Ohio. Located off U.S. Route 33 just south of Columbus, Ohio, this destination greenhouse is easy to get to.

Active in the Community

The front entrance of Dill’s Greenhouse has a wide open landscape befitting the neighboring countryside. The asphalt parking lot lays open a welco

In recent years, an addition to the front of the property was an 8-foot-tall and 28-foot-wide outdoor electronic billboard. The massive sign draws its share of curiosity. The screen’s messaging system rotates with traditional garden sales messages, which can be read going eastbound down the highway.

Among Dill’s promotional tools is its website, which features plant lists to help consumers anticipate the new season’s plant selection. Dill’s Dollars are point-of-purchase coupons customers can redeem later in the season on new purchases, and free on-site classes are offered to customers on Saturdays.

Dill’s Greenhouse sells about 50 poinsettia cultivars each year. For more than 10 years, Dill’s has been one of four greenhouses that trial new cultivars for Ohio State University. Dill likes to participate for the chance to see what’s coming out and what’s worth taking a second look at.

The business also offers plants in 6.5-inch pots and larger, selling them to school and church groups.

The Fall Fest is a huge success at Dill’s Greenhouse. It caters to young families with children, fourth grade and younger. There is a corn maze, hay rides and pumpkins to buy. Dill finds the event attracts a different crowd of customers than the early-season crowd.

Customers also like the tomato tasting event, which allows people to try out Dill’s heirloom tomato varieties when the weather cooperates. Dill has taken on selling local farm produce at the business. Partnering with a local farmer, Schacht’s Farm, Dill’s sells its produce at the greenhouse. Dill promotes the Schacht name on the produce.

Dill’s Greenhouse is part of the community. Regular customers come from as far away as German Village in Columbus, plants are donated to the Ohio State Fair and the greenhouse provides hanging baskets to the nearby community of Canal Winchester. However, Dill’s longtime run on the board of the OFA ended this past July.

With a big beaming face, he sums up his outlook on selling plants: “Vegetable sales have been incredible in the last few years, young families are gardening again. It is fun for us to finally have young families come in who have never planted a garden before and ask, ‘Can you help me?’”

Leave a Reply

More From ...

March 2, 2015

Avoid Surprises On The Delivery Dock

A call in advance about problems with a plant shipment to a retailer you supply goes a long way toward customer satisfaction.

Read More
Janeen Wright

March 2, 2015

Deliver Plant Quality That Trumps Price [Opinion]

The industry's goal is to have loyal customers who return to the same plants time and time again, not because of price, but owing to a plant brand that shouts top-notch garden performance and is synonymous with excellence, which gives them the secure knowledge that their investment will be worth every hard-earned cent.

Read More
Heuch Pink Fizz_featured

March 2, 2015

Intergeneric Crosses Are A New Perennial Trend

Intergeneric crosses, oddities some botanists say are an impossibility, have made serious inroads in the perennial world.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 2, 2015

Avoid Surprises On The Delivery Dock

A call in advance about problems with a plant shipment to a retailer you supply goes a long way toward customer satisfaction.

Read More
Janeen Wright

March 2, 2015

Deliver Plant Quality That Trumps Price [Opinion]

The industry's goal is to have loyal customers who return to the same plants time and time again, not because of price, but owing to a plant brand that shouts top-notch garden performance and is synonymous with excellence, which gives them the secure knowledge that their investment will be worth every hard-earned cent.

Read More
Heuch Pink Fizz_featured

March 2, 2015

Intergeneric Crosses Are A New Perennial Trend

Intergeneric crosses, oddities some botanists say are an impossibility, have made serious inroads in the perennial world.

Read More
Harvest Automation - HV-100

March 2, 2015

Robots Grab Hold Of Growers’ Material Handling Needs

Harvest Automation’s HV-100 robots automate one of the hardest, most labor-intensive jobs at growing operations – plant spacing. With more technology coming, investing in robots could become even more realistic for growers of all sizes.

Read More
Smart Herb Garden

March 2, 2015

Smartpot Uses Sensors And Cartridges To Ensure Success …

Click & Grow helps make it simple for consumers to grow their own herbs and spices at home, even if they have little experience with plants.

Read More

March 2, 2015

Student Flash Mob At TPIE Has Roots In Floriculture

The local FFA students who entertained TPIE attendees in 2014 and 2015 received industry donations of plants and a greenhouse structure to help expand their horticultural program.

Read More
Rose Rosette on Knockout rose, May 2013. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 2, 2015

Rose Rosette Disease Fight Gets A Boost From Government…

In 2014, $4.6 million was awarded through the Farm Bill to tackle rose rosette disease, a devastating pathogen that affects one of the industry’s most important crops.

Read More
Fig 1 Leafy Gall On Leucanthemum Becky

March 2, 2015

How To Prevent Leafy Gall Before You Lose Plants

Leafy gall is a nasty disease that can go undetected until plant damage is done. Take these steps to protect your crops from infection.

Read More
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The G…

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Ann…

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
Evolvulus Blue My Mind

February 24, 2015

Blue Ribbon Bloomers For Greenhouse Production

Grow what consumers want! Surveys show that blue is one of the top preferred colors of today’s consumers. Here are twelve top recommended blue-flowering Proven Winners annuals and perennials to suit your spring production cycle.

Read More
myers industries Lawn and Garden Logo

February 24, 2015

Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn And Garden Business Sold, N…

The management of Myers Lawn and Garden Group, along with Wingate Partners V, L.P. have recently acquired the Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn and Garden business. The new company is named The HC Companies, and will continue as a North American leading provider of horticulture containers supplying the greenhouse, nursery and retail markets.

Read More
Outfitting Your Greenhouse

February 24, 2015

Save Energy With The Right Greenhouse Glazing

The glazing you choose can make a big difference in your energy bill and the uniformity of your crops.

Read More
Rough Brothers aeroponic greenhouse project

February 24, 2015

Rough Brothers Takes A Hands-On Approach To Several Pro…

Two projects Rough Brothers worked on for Altman plants in Giddings, Texas, and Scissortail Farms in Tulsa County, Okla., show that pre-planning on the grower's part opens the way for a smooth-running expansion project.

Read More
Michigan State University Extension

February 24, 2015

Ethylene From Defective Greenhouse Heaters Damages Crop…

Malfunctioning greenhouse heaters can lead to crop damage from ethylene and carbon monoxide induced illness for workers. Michigan State University's Extension educators Tom Dudek and Randy Beaudry teach you how to recognize the symptoms and check greenhouse heaters to avoid the concern.

Read More
Stuppy Greenhouse Manufacturing's Rainbow Super Structure

February 23, 2015

Stuppy Greenhouse Manufacturing Says Every Customer’s G…

Well-suited greenhouses that function efficiently for customers arise from involving them in the design process from start to finish. Stuppy Greenhouse Manufacturing put this philosophy on a greenhouse design for a wholesale grower looking to expand his annuals operation. The grower's needs were simple, yet daunting: design a greenhouse that delivers the perfect growing environment, but keep maintenance and operating costs low.

Read More
Havest Automation Robot

February 18, 2015

Robots Grab Hold Of Growers’ Material Handling Needs

Harvest Automation’s HV-100 robots automate one of the hardest, most labor-intensive jobs at growing operations – plant spacing. With more technology coming, investing in robots could become even more realistic for growers of all sizes.

Read More

February 18, 2015

Range Of Nursery Inspections To Protect Patented Plants…

Plant patents are under protection, and breeders are fighting for their rights to keep growers from illegally propagating protected varieties. It's something you don't want to take a chance on, because the risk is far higher than the reward. More than 300 inspections were carried out last year from New York to British Columbia and from Ontario to Florida to protect plant patents, Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) and branded programs.

Read More