It looks like the drought in Georgia has taken a big toll on garden centers. Pike Nurseries, a $68 million a year chain, and one of the country's largest independent nursery is going on the auction block. They employ over 700 people between 15 stores and 5 garden centers. According to an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, â€œPike owes $5.6 million to at least 20 lawn and garden businesses across the Southeast, West and Midwest...â€ According to the paper, â€œNeal Aronson, of Roark Capital, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a Feb. 1, 2008 story, that Pike "isn't overleveraged; it doesn't have a lot of debt. It's just unfortunate that the drought was out of everybody's control."
As I went through the comments at the papers story I found it interesting that some of the commenter's said it wasn't the drought, but a combination of things that caused the downfall. Some commenter's blamed management, others the government restrictions on planting, still others blame Pikes â€œhigh pricesâ€. Some took delight saying how they would shop at Home Depot or Lowe's and not miss a step. One said, â€œThe blame falls on the private equity firm that bought the company from the Pike family a few years ago.â€ Another said, â€œThey were just not good at being nurserymen. Better yet they didn't forgot how to play in the dirt. They just didn't like the dirt.â€
Having been through a total ban on planting during a drought here in the 80's I can say its hard to stay in business under those circumstances. Combine that with what appears to be some management issues and the result is here for all to see. The comment from â€œemployee 16â€ sums up the whole affair, â€œ6:30 am get to work, turn on over head sprinklers. put money in the registers. open all gates. customers start entering parking lot. the rush of a spring saturday morning kicks in your a pike nursery store manager and the best gardeners in the state of georgia come in to buy the best plants available. I never did it for the money I did it because I believed in who I worked for and what I was selling. There will never be another Pike Family Nurseries. Thank all of the people who gave me a job and truly know what a real nursery can offer. May the horticultural gods bless us all.â€