When local gardeners look back at 2012, one event will stand out. On Leap Day, Green Acres Nursery & Supply rolled out a game-changer.
Feb. 29 was the day the family-owned nursery chain opened its third and largest location. Converting an empty Circuit City store in Folsom, the new Green Acres transformed the area's gardening landscape. It became an instant destination nursery, attracting customers from six counties.
"When I pulled into the parking lot before 7 a.m., we already had more than 100 people, waiting in line for the doors to open," recalled Ashley Gill, Green Acres' marketing director. "No one expected that to happen. It was really cool to see that."
Mobbed by customers, the new nursery needed help directing traffic in its 230-space lot.
Since that big splash, Green Acres has maintained much of that momentum. Entering 2013, the company is looking for more opportunities to expand.
"It was a good year," Gill said. "The Folsom store can do so much business and it can still do more. A lot of people in Folsom don't know about us yet. But they will."
Located in Broadstone Crossing close to a Cost Plus and the upscale Palladio shopping center, the Folsom nursery is one of the largest in the Central Valley. On a packed 5.7-acre site, its retail space totals more than 56,000 square feet, including 30,000 indoors.
"It's massive," Gill said. "We have three times the space (indoors) as our Roseville store.
"We were pleasantly surprised by our outdoor living department," added Gill, noting the Folsom store's large space for barbecues and patio furniture.
Along with nursery stock and supplies, she said, "It added up to a successful plan."
With the demise of Capital Nursery and other smaller nurseries, Green Acres has become the go-to source for Sacramento gardeners. Besides its Folsom location, the chain has outlets on the eastern edge of Sacramento and Roseville.
"With the third store, we're now able to keep 135 core employees through the winter," Gill said. "We have time now for more training and development. We're also busy looking for new products and trying to add to the mix of things that work in our area."
Vegetables continue to be "huge," she noted. "We carried 55 varieties of tomatoes this year and more than 35 different peppers."
Like its poinsettias, Green Acres' vegetable transplants and many of its bedding plants are grown by Eisley's in Auburn.
"We're proud we can buy local and keep money in the local economy," Gill said. "The plants are suited to this area and do better here."
Green Acres has tried hard to be more than a plant source for gardeners by planning a wide range of community events.
During the holidays, its Folsom store hosted an evening holiday social with appetizers from Fat's Asia Bistro and cocktail samples from Hangar One vodka. All three nurseries held Luminary Nights with 300 handmade paper-bag lanterns lighting the nursery walkways.
"My mom made all those luminarias by hand," Gill said. "We had carolers, cider, cocoa, coffee and cookies. It was one of the first cold nights, too, so people really appreciated that cocoa. It was something fun for the community and very festive."
Green Acres' annual fall festival has proved to be a big hit with local gardening celebrities such as landscape designers Michael Glassman and Ahmed Hassan, local food trucks and lots of family fun.
"We gave out 1,000 tickets for mini-burgers or tacos (from the food trucks)," Gill said. "It was like a big carnival with a bean bag toss, rubber ducky races on our water plant tables, miniature golf, pumpkin decorating, face painting, fruit tasting and a pie walk we gave away a lot of pies.
"We've been doing this festival for seven years," she added. "People come back year after year. It's really starting to get some traction."
Brooks Walker, of Folsom, author of the Cakewalker blog, lauded the event and the nursery. "What makes this business work boils down to a single word family," Walker wrote. "The staff is treated like family and in turn, the customers are treated like family."
Green Acres will celebrate its 10th anniversary June 20 with a Summer Solstice Eve party.
"We're very excited about 2013," Gill said. "We'd love to expand more, maybe not this (new) year, but soon. There's definitely opportunities for growth in parts of Sacramento. Elk Grove definitely is on our radar."
SPECIAL GARDEN SECTION
Look for "A Year's Walk Through the Garden," a special month-by-month planting guide, in The Bee's New Year's Day edition.