As soon as the snow stopped falling in April, things got crazy at local garden centers.
Record-breaking crazy, says Austin Cirian of Cirian’s Farmers Market.
“We’re doing business on a daily basis that we’re used to seeing on bigger weekends like Mother’s Day and Memorial Day,’’ he said.
When asked what’s been flying off the shelves, Brad Canoyer of Canoyer Garden Center said: “Everything. Top to bottom.’’
While both declined to cite any financial numbers, they say the last month has been like no other early spring they can remember.
Canoyer called it the perfect storm, in most part because of the coronavirus.
“Everybody is at home, people were bored, and the weather was absolutely perfect,’’ he said. “So what are you going to do? You are going to go out and work in your yard.’’
Vegetables have been among the biggest sellers as many people have decided to grow their own food for the first time. Some are worried about food safety, others about avoiding the grocery store during the pandemic.
Cirian’s gets its supplies from several nurseries in the Midwest and said the usual eight pages of vegetable offerings from each has been down to six or three pages or even less in some cases because of the heavy demand.
Tomatoes, zucchini, parsley and slicing cucumbers have been big sellers at their market at 49th and Leavenworth Streets.
Canoyer said customers don’t have to worry about garden centers running out of most items, but he said there could be a lull as growers catch up. Canoyer is a grower-retailer, and he said they have two more crops in the works.
“We don’t stage to have the last 15 days of April be insane,’’ he said. “We gear up for Mother’s Day weekend, and that hit two weeks ago and just stayed there.’’
Mick Mulhall, the third-generation president at Mulhall’s, said while it’s been busy there, too, he’s most encouraged about the big jump in calls from first-time gardeners. There have been so many that the company is investing in a new phone system to serve them better.
Many of the calls have come from young families. Questions have ranged from how to create a raised bed for their kids to those curious about starting a vegetable garden or putting together plantings for a container for the first time. Many others want to know how to bring more life to their yards as well as helping pollinators.
Mulhall says it’s exciting for the community as well as the planet to see so many invested in green spaces, and he hopes it continues long after the threat from the virus is over.
“As somebody who has committed his career to making our community more beautiful, this has been as encouraging of a three months as I’ve seen in my career,’’ he said. “While this virus still weighs heavy, I find hope in seeing so many interested and engaging in the natural world.’’
Business slowed some with the cold weather, but as the weather warms again, so will sales, especially with Mother’s Day on Sunday. But once people get their gardens planted and flower beds filled, Canoyer and Cirian say It could even end up being just an average year.
Canoyer said so far, though, it’s been a win-win situation.
Customers have been good about following social distancing rules, and garden centers have been able to contribute to the city’s economy and tax base.
“We’re happy. Customers are happy,’’ he said. “They needed somewhere to go to see color and be happy.’’