Wallace's Garden Center

Wallace’s Garden Center
Wallace’s Garden Center

Bettendorf, Iowa

“We are always looking for a balance between being a true garden center and plant-centric retailer and all the other parts that make us such a unique place to visit.”

Year founded:

Wallace’s Garden Center was founded in February 1981.

What is your garden center known for?

We are definitely a destination store in our area. We are known for being inclusive and welcoming of everyone. We are known for being plant-growers with knowledge and all the advantages of growing your own plants. Every year, we become better known for our other departments like outdoor living, home furnishings and accessories, kitchen and gourmet foods, as well as ladies’ clothing and accessories. We are always looking for a balance between being a true garden center and plant-centric retailer and all the other parts that make us such a unique place to visit.

How do you set your store apart from the big boxes?

Wallace's Garden CenterThe basics: knowledge and service, of course, but also inspiring displays and unique products. We spend a lot of time at gift markets, looking for new vendors and items that you don’t see at every boutique in town or catalog in the mail. We look for quality in everything, but also value. We don’t buy anything just because it’s cheap. We make sure it is a product we can stand behind and the customer can trust it is worth the price we have on it.

How do you ensure teamwork among employees?

This is a constant process. Communication is the best fix and whenever issues arise, it is usually due to a breakdown in communication. We do a lot of group lunches, morning tailgate meetings, positive reinforcement and frequent checkins from myself and the managers. I make a point to talk to every employee every day, even if it’s just a quick hello. We try to praise each other’s teams and cheer as one team when we get a five-star review or congratulate any employee that had a customer compliment. Like any business, we have days where it seems like we are all working on our own islands, but overall we are all on the same team, win or lose.

Why is your store so successful with merchandising?

Our merchandisers both have degrees in interior design. They know how to put together an entire room (or outdoor room) — they not only have the designer’s eye but the training to know why and how product works together. We go to market and buy as a team. They keep their “looks” or themes in mind for the upcoming season and know exactly where each product is going to go and with what other product. They enjoy presenting customers with a vision of an entire space. We count on our displays to inspire customers to purchase a whole new look rather than one piece.

What are your best practices for merchandising giftware?

Change and refresh each look often — including six major seasonal resets and smaller weekly resets for the entire year.

Begin every display with a clean slate (figuratively and literally). Our merchandisers are hard workers. They thoroughly clean every part of an area before setting products.

They use a mix of careful planning and designing on the fly. They start with the “bones” of the display (large pieces, a rug, fountain, furniture, pottery, etc.) and build out from there. They include items from all over the store to tell the story they want to tell.

They ask for others’ opinions or for a quick suggestion if they get stuck or when they know it needs that one last piece to finish it off.

They keep customers in mind in making things shoppable. To quote Tracy, one of our merchandisers, “This isn’t a museum.” Though I would argue that many of their displays are masterpieces in their own right.

Meet the rest of the winners:

Thank you to this year’s Lawn & Garden Retailer Innovator Award sponsors:

2023 Innovator Award Sponsors