Admittedly, this spring planting season is one for the record books for the third generation of the Bruce family trying to figure things out in a new COVID-19 reality.
Kelsey Bruce and her family own Cedar Rim Nursery. They were initially a little nervous, like most in the industry, when the virus hit B.C. At the beginning of their selling season, so many businesses were being given shut downs ordered by the province, admitted Bruce.
“Throughout the industry there was, yeah, a lot of nerves and people were pretty scared,” said Bruce, explaining that they’re part of a Canadian cooperative and have likewise kept in touch with a lot of growers and retailers across the country, as well as closer to home.
Thankfully, she said, B.C. garden shops – unlike some elsewhere in the country – were deemed an essential service.
And while having to revamp considerably how and what they were doing, Cedar Rim was able to stay open.
Again, unsure what to expect, Bruce and her family manoeuvred the new reality and never anticipated the onslaught of people who would come in.
“You always have that older demographic of true, true gardeners and they come in year after year, and they’re in their garden all the time. And now, to be getting younger groups coming up is really exciting,” she said.
The biggest demand this year, without question, has been for vegetables, Bruce said, and it’s primarily coming from that influx of new (many younger) gardeners anxious to get their hands dirty doing some planting and landscaping.
“Everyone just wants to have a vegetable garden this year,” Bruce said, noting that could leave her team a little light on veggie stock and seeds in coming days.
“It’s nice to see people have the passion to grow their own,” she added.
But unlike some garden centres, they grow so much of their own stock, that she said they’ll never likely sell out of the grasses, perennials, shrubs, or trees cultivated on site.
As in past, Cedar Rim has about 50 staff working this spring season, but Bruce noted that’s a few more in areas such as production and cash, since they don’t have the gift or fashion sections open due to COVID.
Admittedly, her family has had to rethink how they do almost everything on the retail end of the business, Bruce said.
For instance, in past they’ve prided themselves on customer service.
This year, they’ve had to implement policies that basically keep most of the staff a distance away from customers.
“This year, we’re not doing one-on-one service. That’s a definite change that people have had to get used to… most are understanding.”
They’re not, for instance, helping them find just the right shrub, or picking out the right container, or helping a customer load a wagon overflowing with plants to their car.
Also new, they’re doing a lot of online and parking lot pickup business – although that was halted for the two weeks leading up to Mother’s Day and the long weekend (the busiest gardening time of the year).
Bruce only partially jokes that they’re really having to get their heads around a lot of firsts at Cedar Rim.
“Our motto this year is, ‘it is what it is’,” and she said. The cool thing, they’re all learning to adapt, and they’re doing it with a smile on their faces because they’re seeing all the first-timers taking up gardening – whether out of boredom or a new found desire (accentuated by the luxury of time) to beautify their homes and gardens.
Whatever the reason, she predicts once newbies get a taste of gardening, they too will be hooked for life.
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