Brianna Lovett has survived her first planting season as new owner of the garden center on Highway 10 at the southeast edge of Waconia now called Lovett Garden Home and Floral.
Formerly known as Willow Winds and owned and operated for years by Randy and Avis Hammer, Lovett was handed the keys April 3 after the Hammers sold the business and departed to a new life with family in Montana. It has been a whirlwind ever since, Lovett said.
The sale had been pending for nearly a year, but it wasn’t until spring that the necessary permits and paperwork were in place. That left just a few weeks for Lovett and her small staff to prepare for a garden center’s busiest time – the month of May.
In Minnesota with its short growing season, 90 percent of gardens sales come in that one month, Lovett explains.
In addition to the tight time frame to hire seasonal employees and get ready, challenges were compounded by supply chain issues posed by the pandemic and shortages of tropical plants due to last season’s hurricanes. The challenges continued into June when several days of unseasonably hot weather pushed greenhouse temperatures to nearly 120 degrees and threatened to bake plants inside and outside. The garden center team was watering constantly.
In the meantime, Lovett was busy planting and placing floral containers and annual gardens for commercial customers in Wayzata and Plymouth through her pervious business Lovett Planters, which she started out of her backyard.
Her business stems from family involvement in landscaping, gardening and business ownership, Lovett says.
Brianna worked for her brother’s landscaping business Cornerstone Industries starting at age 16 and has operated her own floral container gardening and landscaping business for the past five years, providing color and growth for commercial accounts like offices and apartment complexes in the region.
Lovett estimates that she planted 250 containers this year as well as several annual beds.
Now, she also has six acres of property and a 3,000 square foot garden center to maintain.
Lovett credits sister Brittany and Waconia native and experienced grower Kelsey Engelen for their help in sustaining her during the launch of her new business.
Lovett had her eye on the Willow Winds site for over a year as an opportunity to expand her business. She calls it being in the right place at the right time as the Hammers were looking to sell the property about the time Lovett approached them. She said she also appreciates their support and patience in making the transition.
Her goal is to keep the garden center unique, off the beaten path like the Hammers, although the hammers of homes being built in Interlaken Addition can now be heard just a across a stream that surrounds the property.
That aspect has made the small oasis unattractive to developers, yet still perfect for a garden center. It won’t be the same as the Hammers’ business, and they advised her to make it her own, Lovett said. So maybe watch for more house plants, boutique items and other features in in the coming months and years.