Hyannis Country Garden
“Although we have gone back to doing some in-person events, virtual is here to stay, especially for educational topics.”
The family business started in 1965 and is now in the hands of the third generation. Resident Plant Geek C.L. Fornari, although not family, has worked in the business for nearly three decades and spearheads Hyannis’ education.
When you went into lockdown in March 2020, how did you quickly begin virtual programming?
As those in this business know well, most of our profit is made in the spring. When the pandemic hit, we didn’t know if we’d be allowed to stay open or if people would continue to want plants. I decided to do a weekly Horticultural Happy Hour on Fridays at 5 p.m. as a way to focus on the life- affirming topics of plants and gardens, and to keep people interested in horticulture. After the first happy hour, I had to increase the size of my Zoom plan because nearly 300 people wanted to be on the call! I typically had over 200 every Friday, and to this day, people come up to me and say, “Your happy hours got me through COVID.”
As the pandemic began to fade, I realized that there were many advantages to continuing virtual programming. We don’t have to clear an area for an audience, keep extra staff on after-hours, or worry about where 150-plus people are going to park. Additionally, in the garden center, we have no large space that can be made dark enough to show slides, but with a virtual class that isn’t a problem. My Zoom classes are appealing to those who don’t want to drive after dark or in winter weather, and for parents who don’t have to find a babysitter.
We now offer virtual Sunday Seminars, which cost $10 to attend, and a once-a-month Horticultural Happy Hour, which is free. The Sunday Seminars are you-have- to-be-there events and are not recorded because this creates a sense of community that I-can-watch-it-anytime presentations don’t cultivate.
How do you promote these events?
I drum up excitement about these classes by making it about our customers. The fun part is critical. We promote upcoming programs on our website, in our newsletter, on social networks and local media (local newspaper and radio).
One thing that makes a Horticultural Happy Hour fun is that I start out by asking them what’s in their glass. I always say that it doesn’t matter what you’re drinking, but that we’ve gotten a beverage and are sitting down together to relax and enjoy a topical presentation about plants. Some people chime in that they are drinking herbal tea, coffee or sparkling water, while others are enjoying wine or a cocktail. Sometimes I begin with a recipe for a garden- based cocktail/mocktail, and people often get back to me about enjoying those beverages.
Although we have gone back to doing some in-person events, it’s my opinion that virtual is here to stay, especially for educational topics. Make-and-take workshops will always be popular in-store events, but for educational programs and customer excitement-builders (the happy hours), virtual has many advantages.
Meet the rest of the winners:
Thank you to this year’s Lawn & Garden Retailer Innovator Award sponsors: