5 Minutes With...Michael Fiore

January 2024
5 Minutes With … Michael Fiore By Teresa McPherson

Michael Fiore is vice president of Smith's Gardentown.

Michael Fiore is vice president of Smith’s Gardentown, a fourth-generation family-owned nursery and garden center in Wichita Falls, Texas.

What made you choose horticulture as a career?

It chose me — twice! I was born into the business and worked in it growing up. However, once I reached college age, I left the business to get my degree in wildlife and fisheries science, thinking I’d be a game warden or biologist or something. After finishing school, I moved to the rainforests of Costa Rica, then Peru, where I ended up staying for four more years. I thought I would live there forever, but a crazy turn of events (we’ll save that story for another day) ended up bringing me back to the U.S. and the family business in 2015 — and I haven’t looked back ever since.

What do you love about your job?

There’s so much I love about it. I love the variety that it brings. I couldn’t stand working at a job doing the same thing every day. I love connecting people to nature. I love educating people — that’s why we put such an emphasis on producing videos for our social media platforms. The people I meet within the industry at trade shows are incredible folks as well. What’s not to love?

What keeps you up at night?

Interesting question. What scares me most career-wise would be mediocrity. I think my natural tendency would be to just “go with the flow” and not do the hard things needed to truly separate myself as a good leader and businessman. It’s a constant struggle to push myself outside of my comfort zone to create better habits, systems and processes. That’s why I’m a part of several peer groups — I need people in my life that can continue to challenge me to be better.

As a family business, what measures do you take to separate the family part from the business part?

At first it was hard. Being the owner’s son means you’re held to higher levels of scrutiny from your coworkers. You really have to lean into your work ethic, commitment and moral character. Respect has to be earned, and it can take years for that to happen. Now, I try to embrace the family side of it. I like to have my kids come up to the nursery and hang out and play whenever possible. 

What’s something that few people know about you?

I used to sing and play guitar a lot, including leading worship for a couple of churches. I have not sang in front of a crowd in a long time now, I rarely play guitar anymore and I’ve lost the calluses on my fingertips. I think I’ll pick the guitar back up again when I get out of this busy season in my life.

Favorite plant to grow? Why?

I’ve been big on catmint for the last several years. There are many good cultivars out there — ‘Walker’s Low’ is a workhorse in the landscape. It’s early to wake up in the spring, late to go to sleep in the fall, it blooms for a long time, and the bees go crazy for it. It also handles the extreme heat in Texas like a champ.

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Teresa McPherson

Teresa McPherson is the managing editor of Lawn & Garden Retailer. Contact her at [email protected].