Happiness grows at White Oak Gardens’ retail greenhouse — right alongside the plants and people. Customers see the garden center’s greenhouse as their happy place, and it’s no secret why. The state-of-the-art 11,138 -square-foot facility in Cincinnati, OH is a great place for plants and the people who love plants.
“People driving by just stop in to look; it’s that impressive,” says Jeff Webeler, one of the owners of White Oak Gardens, along with his wife and two sons. “We hear it all the time; this place is beautiful. Also, the functionality is outstanding. The open-roof area is cooler than standing outside. The airflow creates its own cooling effect. In another area, the shade curtain, with just a flip of a switch, allows for simple screening on those hot sunny days.”
A Hobby Turns to White Oak Nursery Profits
White Oak Nursery started in 1950 out of machinist Nick Staab’s hobby of grafting and budding field-grown roses. He grew roses on his 6-acre properties at Blue Rock Road. In 1960, he decided to build a 50 x 50 Rough Brothers (now Prospiant) glass greenhouse to grow his beloved plants year-round. People began stopping by to purchase annuals and vegetable plant starts. It didn’t take long for Nick to quit his machinist job to start White Oak Nursery.
The timing of the business’ opening, during the 1960s housing boom, proved to be ideal. The business began to thrive as trees, shrubs, fertilizers, and flowers practically flew off the shelves. Fate would have it that Jeff Webeler met Nick and started working for him in the late 1970s while on a summer break from his horticulture studies at Utah State University.
Years later, with Nick headed for retirement and Jeff graduated and a degree in Ornamental Horticulture in hand, the two arranged for Jeff to buy the nursery’s inventory and lease White Oak Nursery for one year. That year turned into several and the business continued to grow.
Relocating and Reinventing: The Birth of White Oaks Gardens
Jeff ran into a snag when Nick passed away and his sons were undecided about what they wanted to do with the property. Relocation seemed like the best option, and Jeff eventually found the perfect patch of undeveloped property just south of White Oak Nursery’s original location on Blue Rock Road.
After a hectic year of rezoning, planning, and construction of the store and Rough Brothers Poly-Arch gutter-connected greenhouses, the new White Oak Gardens Center opened its doors for business in December of 1984.
Sales continued to grow over the next three years. It wasn’t long before Jeff’s wife Patty joined the business in 1988 to handle the office management. His sons, Evan and Andrew, followed suit in the mid-2000s after graduating from college and gaining work experience outside of the business. Currently, the four run White Oak Gardens under joint ownership.
Jeff knew a big investment was in order when his sons expressed an interest in the business. The revenue generated from an expansion would help support his growing staff numbers and additional family members. He proactively started purchasing adjacent properties as they became available and began dreaming about growing the business even more.
A Dream Retail Greenhouse for a Growing Company
In 2017, White Oak opened its 11,138 -square-foot, open-roof, glass greenhouse with an A-Frame Headhouse. The new greenhouse was the culmination of Jeff’s dream after years of planning for the structure and working with Rough Brothers Greenhouse manufacturers (now Prospiant).
Jeff says sales grew four-fold when the business moved and the Poly-Arch greenhouses went up in 1984. His investment and commitment paid off, along with an increased plant selection and the knowledge of his staff.
“The new A-Frame and Open Roof structures that opened in the Spring of 2017 added a similar dramatic improvement to the look of our site,” Jeff says. “It is an impressive and inviting structure. With this latest investment, our sales have come close to doubling, and we have won multiple awards for beautification and most recently Colerain Chamber Business of the Year.”
The owners and staff at White Oak Gardens make it a point to stay active in the Green Industry on local, state, and national levels to keep up with current innovation and education in the horticulture field. People know the garden center has a reputation for providing quality plants and serving customers with a staff dedicated to providing accurate horticulture information.
“I am very proud of my staff!” Jeff says. “Hiring horticultural knowledgeable people who love plants has kept White Oak Gardens growing all these years.
Retail Greenhouse Features Make the Business of Growing Plants Easier
Jeff’s favorite feature of the greenhouse is the Wadsworth controls and weather station that make for easy automatic operation that can also be done manually, with the flip of a switch. On busy spring and summer days when good weather draws customers to the store, Jeff enjoys the interior and exterior roll-up sidewalls, which open the store to the outside sales area, making it look twice as big and easy to shop.
With more reliable heat, cooling, and shading in the greenhouse, White Oak’s staff uses less labor to care for the plants and overall plant quality has improved. Displays can be easily maintained with improved customer flow, which enhances the overall shopping experience.
During the Christmas season, the side walls come down to sell Christmas trees and greens in the non-heated areas under covered glass, which is a huge plus during those cold wet/snowy days. All this leads to greater sales and profit, Jeff says.
Jeff went with a gas radiant heat system for the greenhouse because it was a quiet, comfortable heat source. He would have done things differently if he had it to do over again.
“I did not want noisy fans to intrude on our customers’ experience,” he says. “While this works well for quiet, we have found hotspots that can burn plants directly under it.”
A Versatile Space: White Oak Gardens’ Greenhouse Beyond the Plants
White Oak’s greenhouse serves various purposes for many different occasions. During slower times, the staff conducts seminars and other talks and activities. In late October, Jeff’s son got married in the greenhouse. The event turned out beautifully, so nice that many people have inquired about booking the facility. Jeff says this is not something he is looking to do, but it shows the interest and versatility of such a beautiful structure.
Over the years, customers frequently exclaim that this greenhouse “is their happy place.” White Oak adopted the phrase and a sign hanging on the atrium wall at the main entrance proclaims “Happiness Grows Here” for all to see.
Jeff has one piece of advice for his fellow garden center owners who are contemplating a similar greenhouse investment.
“Do it!” he says. “If your willingness to work it and your demographics and finances allow, it will pay dividends.”
Learn more about White Oak Gardens and its Prospiant (Rough Brothers) greenhouse. Then seize the moment and contact us at [email protected] to learn how a retail greenhouse can pay off for you.
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