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Homestead Gardens brings hybrid sales model to Smyrna

Katie Tabeling

Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, has enjoyed a strong first year with its third location in Delaware. | PHOTO COURTESY OF HOMSTEAD GARDENS

SMYRNA —  In the last year, Homestead Gardens have planted roots in Delaware as one of few independent home and garden suppliers in the region that has focused more on a hybrid sales approach compared to its national competitors.

The Maryland-based garden center finalized the deal for the former Ronny’s Garden World on U.S. Route 13 in December for $1.5 million, according to county land records. But Homestead Gardens representatives have long since established their presence out of the 129,000-square-foot property as a year-round enterprise through online sales and social media.

“We love being in Smyrna, and the community has really embraced us as a family-run business, and embraced our employees and our goal to showcase how life can be beautiful,” Homestead Gardens Marketing Director Diane Love said.

Like Ronny’s Garden World, Homestead Gardens has been around for decades and traces its roots to family. Founder Don Riddle Sr. launched the business out of his parent’s backyard in Hyattsville, Md., when he returned from service in the U.S. Navy.

The business expanded to become one of the largest garden centers between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., with two locations in Davidsonville and Severna Park offering a large array of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, garden accessories, furniture and more. 

In 2017, Homestead Gardens boasted $21 million in sales, according to Garden Center magazine. The Smyrna location employs roughly 55 people, although that number does not include seasonal staff.

Today, roughly 53% of the business is in nursery, which includes trees, shrubs but perennial flowers as well. But as people were homebound in the first year of the pandemic, many homeowners started looking to invest in renovations, inside and out. The IBIS Landscaping Service report shows that 16 million people have bought garden or landscape services since the pandemic began, with many under 35 years old.

Homestead Gardens CEO and President Brian Riddle, who spoke at a Garden Center Magazine-sponsored webinar in February 2021, said that sales volumes had been strong in 2020, particularly with houseplants.

“In the last 12 months, the volume has been just tremendous. With our Houseplant Haven, we’re seeing 50% to 60% growth in that category. In the month of January [2021] I think we were up 130% in that category,” Riddle said during last year’s webinar. “There’s been some real high-velocity categories that changed drastically from where they were a year ago.”

Riddle also said that the pandemic has reinforced the need for garden supply stores to make the jump to e-commerce. Homestead offers a limited selection of plants, mulch, grills and accessories and more online for sale.

“We’ve moved around from a hodgepodge of solutions with curbside and telephone orders,” he said during the webinar. “I feel strongly that in the future, it’s going to be relevant so our strategy is to take the top moving items in our plants and other accessories there, but not get too carried away.”

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