5 Minutes With … Laura Girbach
This month, we catch up with Laura Girbach, general manager of KBK Garden Center in Saline, Michigan.
What brought you to the garden center business?
As a child, my mom was a huge influence in my interest in plants. When we moved to Michigan from Chicago, we had — what seemed to us — a large yard. My mom was excited to be able to create beautiful gardens, build fountains and just plain dig in the dirt. At age 16, my first paycheck job was at one of these garden centers she and I often visited. That led to me spending much of my adult life in this industry; her passion has created my passion.
What do you love about your job?
The people — sharing the beauty, helping them be successful gardeners and getting to know not just our customers, but our team members. Being the person to hire a teenager for their first “real job” and watch them grow and learn. Also our semi-retired team members — people who have spent their lives working and are just ready to be somewhere they can play outside, meet new people, and feel as if they are a part of a great team.
What keeps you up at night?
Being responsible for so many people, from our owner to our team members. I know that, in the end, it’s my responsibility to keep up on trends, be a conscientious purchaser, and keep costs to a place where we are profitable yet affordable. I want customers to feel they are fiscally able to participate in their gardening passion, but we’ve also got to be profitable so we can employ great team members and enable them to take care of themselves and their families.
Another thing is thinking of ways to set us apart from the big-box stores and how to get that out to the community. We do this through both advertising and hosting a number of free family events each season — crafts for kids and even things like an exotic zoo or our live reindeer event during Christmas. It is a lot of energy keeping all these balls in the air, but if you love what you do, it is well worth it.
If you weren’t in this profession, what would you be doing?
It would have to be in the food industry. As an Italian from Chicago, some of my greatest memories were Sunday meals at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. In an Italian family, most community happens around sharing a meal. I love the simple way a meal can put people at ease and open up conversation. Even now, it is not unheard of for me to cook a meal for 200 people at church and just sit back and watch everyone enjoy, laugh, talk and get to know each other.
What’s something that few people know about you?
I don’t know if few people know, but I hope everyone I meet can tell that I have a deep faith. I feel privileged to play in God’s garden every day and share that. Working with the homeless in our area keeps me grounded in my faith, and sharing that faith is the best gift I can offer. Giving of time, talents and funds, I believe, keeps me humble and strong.
Favorite plant to grow? Why?
This is like asking which is my favorite child — it depends on the day and what area I’m focusing on. This past season I really got into creating container landscapes. I had a beautiful fountain topper my mom had in one of her fountains and really wanted to get it going on my deck.
Some of my favorites are the many hydrangeas on the market. I still can’t seem to get the macrophyllas figured out, but having so many panicle options is exciting. I have two large dogs and a fairly small yard, so raised beds have become a must. Each year I’m just excited to see new varieties and colors!
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