Earlier this spring, Rob and Rosemarie Radcliffe were admittedly worried about the impact of COVID-19 on the family business, Lakeview Gardens garden centre in Lefroy.
“If you had asked us in mid March what we were going to do…” Rob shrugs The Radcliffes were able to confirm that contracts to provide flowers for cemetery plantings were secure – but when the closure of hardware stores was announced, “our hearts all sunk.”
A big chunk of the family business involves sales to garden centres at hardware and building supply stores.
The Radcliffes had already ordered their plants, but they ended up dumping part of their product and cutting back on orders for soil and triple mix for fear of getting caught with unwanted and unsaleable items.
Then things changed again.
Lakeview Gardens opened its doors on May 4. For the first few days, business was mostly curbside pick-up – thanks in large part to the online and social media savvy of their kids - then they started allowing one customer into the greenhouse at a time, primarily to choose flowering baskets for Mother’s Day.
Now, three weeks into the season, and with the easing of COVID-19 emergency closures, they can allow up to eight people at a time into the greenhouses, asking customers to maintain social distancing, use the hand-washing stations and follow directional arrows.
People have been lining up for a chance to come in and pick their plants.
“Every day has been like a holiday Monday,” said Rosemarie.
“We are busy,” agreed Rob. “We have never been busier.”
His parents, Steve and Gaynor Radcliffe founded Lakeview Gardens 41 years ago - but this is the first time, Rob said, that “we’re already sitting at mid-July sales, in just three weeks of being open.”
The garden centre sold out of soil in 10 days. It still has a huge selection of vegetables and herbs for the garden, bedding plants, annuals and perennials, flowering baskets and much more, but at this rate, Rob said, “We’re going to sell out.”
He called the support from the community “tremendous,” noting that people are eager to get outside and into their gardens.
“We can’t thank our local people enough,” he said, as well as customers who have come from as far away as Keswick and Sutton. “We open up at 9 a.m. We already have people parked on the road at 20 after 8.”
Lakeview Gardens may sell out of bedding plants, pots of pepper plants and tomatoes before the season is over, but that’s only one facet of the greenhouse operation.
“We’re going to have fresh produce all summer long,” Rob said, and this year, Lakeview is thinking about starting up its own on-site Farmers’ Market.
The centre already sells Gaynor and Rosemarie’s jams and preserves, Innisfil Creek Honey, and Everything Maple & More products; adding their full range of greenhouse-grown produce, from lettuce and radishes to cucumbers and tomatoes, will give shoppers yet another reason to stop by Lakeview Gardens.
Lakeview Gardens is located at 1712 Killarney Beach Road in Lefroy. Click here for more information.