Hort Couture Plants is a new limited liability corporation (LLC) that is based at C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, Mich. Husband-and-wife teams Gerry and Patty Raker and Hort Couture brand founders Jim and Jennifer Monroe signed the papers creating the LLC on Saturday in Columbus. This formalizes the business alliance and structure supporting the fashion-forward brand for independent garden centers.
In addition to providing staffing and overhead, Gerry Raker is providing supply chain coordination and leadership. As one of the top young plant producers, Raker’s has a wealth of experience working with breeders, brokers and growers. Broker partners in the Hort Couture alliance include McHutchison, Eason Horticultural Resources and Fred C. Gloeckner Co. While some relationships have been formed on the young plant side, Raker is looking to establish a wholesale grower network, too, to support the independent garden centers. One grower partner is David Wadsworth, who founded A1A Tropicals with Raker in Miami to produce young plants and finished plants for Hort Couture’s tropical line. The goal is to offer a retail destination with innovative plants year round spanning annuals, edibles, tropicals and blooming potted plants.
“We’re looking at the organization, the entire supply chain–production, distribution and sales,” Gerry says. “Hort Couture is a brand but also a network of independent businesses working together with the brand as a focus. The alliance allows companies to work together in the shadow of global vertical integration. It’s virtual vertical integration without acquisitions.”
At his own company, Gerry has always been known for progressive approaches to team building. “At Raker the focus is on teamwork and communication,” he says. “We’re taking it to another level with teamwork across companies. It’s like going from playing chess to playing 3D chess.”
Jim says he and Jennifer are thrilled to be working with Gerry and Patty. “It’s a great opportunity for us. It puts systems in place that makes things easier for our suppliers, reps and customers.”
The partners pledge to continue to keep Hort Couture just for independent retailers. “The independents need help,” Jim says. “The Home Depots and Lowe’s are getting better everyday.”
Broker Jim Eason, founder of Eason Horticultural Resources, shares why he chose to join the Hort Couture alliance. “For 20 years, I’ve watched the processes that strengthen the independent ornamentals producer in this country,” he says. “This is the only one that I think that is going to do the job.” He adds that he is impressed that true plantsmen from at least five organizations have come together to focus on the independents.
Hort Couture dramatically increased its presence at Short Course this year with six partner booths on the tradeshow floor and two focal retail displays in the outside concourse, one showcasing marketing to Generation X and another leading visitors into the new Retail Interactive center for ideas.