Local garden centers reopen with restrictions

MANISTEE COUNTY – With the onset of spring comes the gardening season, one of the most crucial times of the year for greenhouses and garden centers.

Gardening stores have started to open across the county, which is a welcome sight for many people tired from a long winter and weeks in hiding at home during the pandemic.

As the COVID-19 epidemic has spread across the state, new restrictions on non-essential businesses have risked the spring gardening season, leaving garden center owners concerned about their businesses.

“We kept growing our plants even though we weren’t sure if we could sell them,” said Terri Schmidt, co-owner of Pleasanton Valley Greenhouses in Bear Lake. “It was a little stressful.”

Pleasanton Valley Greenhouses plans to host planting events, including the annual Kids Getting Dirty Remote Social Media Workshop, Schmidt said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer changed the state’s stay-at-home order on April 24, easing restrictions on garden centers.

The decision couldn’t come soon enough for garden store owners keen to reopen before Mother’s Day on May 10.

“The governor gave us the green light on Friday, April 24, and we opened on Saturday and have been busy ever since,” said Marci Gremore, director of the Weesies Brothers Garden Center and Landscaping in Manistee. “We just appreciate that our customers waited for us to open. We had a lot of people who responded that they were really happy that we were able to open.”

While the garden center usually opens on April 1, the delay has impacted business and resulted in layoffs. The nursery industry employs 9,000 workers statewide, according to a new statement from the Michigan Farm Bureau.

The governor’s initial decision to close garden centers in stores over 50,000 square feet was met with considerable retreat.

On April 17, the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association filed a class action lawsuit in federal court on behalf of garden centers and landscaping companies that were banned from operating during the stay-at-home order of the State.

Locally, Ryan Weesies, co-owner of Weesies Brothers Garden Center, joined a number of other garden store owners in signing a letter urging Whitmer to allow their stores to resume operations, Gremore said.

“(Weesies) made plans on how we could protect both our customers and our employees,” she said.

Garden centers may be open, but they remain subject to social distancing and other guidelines expected of any business during the current stay-at-home order. Staff and buyers should wear face masks and distance themselves to minimize the risk of transmission. Pleasanton Valley Greenhouses has also made curbside service available to guests.

Michigan’s gardening industry generates between $ 580 and $ 700 million in annual sales, mostly between March and Memorial Day, according to information from the Michigan Farm Bureau.

If the staff of the garden center is impatient to reopen their businesses, they also warn against planting before the final frost which is expected until the end of May.

Garden center staff recommend planting frost-resistant vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, onions, potatoes, and radishes.