After 30 years of business in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region, Ken-Dor Garden Centre staff know what their loyal customers want.
In two words: deer resistant.
“That’s the number one question asked, working out here, what’s deer resistant, that’s the big one, so we try to specialize in that,” said manager Tim Donkersley.
He listed off, among others, “lavender, Mexican orange, heather… rhodos, for the most part, unless you’re out in Nanoose, then that’s a whole different ballgame.”
“There’s probably half a dozen for sure, can’t-miss plants,” he said.
While he estimates 60 per cent of their customers are locals “you recognize year after year,” he added that the rest come from far and wide.
“I get customers from Victoria, Campbell River, quite a few from Port Alberni, a lot from all over the mid-Island.”
He has also noticed a lot of new, younger customers coming in over the last year or two.
“We’re changing with the times, brining in more stuff that people want, more drought-resistant plants and taking care of things that way — it’s ever changing.”
But he said they aim to respond to what their customer’s want, so it’s up to people to tell them what that is and keep making requests to help steer their inventory.
Tim’s parents Ken and Dorothy started the family business at Wembley Mall in Parksville in the spring of 1987.
Ken worked in forestry and Dorothy was already an experienced gardener, so when they saw a small nursery going out of business shortly after moving to the area from Victoria, they bought it.
“And it’s been growing at a steady rate ever since,” Tim said.
The original Ken-Dor was in the corner of the mall area where Remax is today, before it moved across the parking lot in 1991 to where the new liquor store is, where it stayed until 2011. That year they consolidated their store and operations at the current Qualicum Beach farm location, which they had bought for planting and storage space in 1995.
Occasional sales at the farm before consolidation were popular, said Donkersley. He said the novelty of shopping at ‘the farm’ appears to have worn off since it became their main store.
Tim started working with the family business as a young man at the end of the 1980s, he said, and his role has grown.
Dorothy, the hands-on manager and garden lover of the family, died in April, 2014 and Ken, who “was never really as hands-on as mom,” is less involved in the daily operations today.
Tim also gives a lot of credit to their staff of about a dozen, led by 25-year veteran Lily Barie, who he said is threatening to retire.
Those employees, with about seven working at a time, dwindle to just three in the winter, in the highly seasonal industry.
“March to June is when you’re going to make or break it,” Tim said, gesturing to their fields of stock, much of which he hopes be sold in the next few weeks.
“If you don’t have a good April-May you’re going to have a bad year,” he said, pointing to the massive impact of the weather.
“It’s pretty simple,” he said with a chuckle, “when it’s nice out people come shopping for plants.”
He said business peaks at the same time every spring, just before Mother’s Day when “the annuals and perennials are big.”
And he said it’s not a surprise when municipal watering restrictions begin to kick in in the early summer and sales take a sharp nose dive.
Tim said that they have been trying to expand their offerings, getting more into gifts, bagged soil bags and pots, but they will continue to focus on their core products.
Though they don’t have a specific 30th anniversary event planned, watch for good sales this season and help Ken-Dor Garden Centre celebrate it’s long-time business in the area.
For more information visit www.ken-dor.ca, call 250-594-1117 or stop by 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday at 845 Qualicum Road, near Rupert Road.