Schmidt’s Garden Center
ADDRESS: 1299 NW 29th Street, Corvallis, OR 97330
PHONE NUMBER: 541-757-3214
OWNER: Susan Yaukey
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 54
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 8
WHAT THEY SELL: Garden supplies, flowers, vegetable starts, and wild bird food
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: For flowers, plants, and accessories to beautify and enliven your yard and home, and for gardening guidance and support, served with a smile.
Susan Yaukey and her staff know how to make their customers feel welcome. Building on the business started by her father more than 50 years ago, Susan has created a warm and inviting atmosphere for people who are looking for products to bring their homes and gardens to life. Personal touches throughout the store make this an especially fun place to explore, from the friendly “Hi, may I help you?” that greets every customer, to the plant-inspired paintings and greeting cards produced by Susan’s sister, an award-winning artist. To keep their customers well-informed, Schmidt’s e-newsletter provides readers with articles about special sales, gardening advice, what’s special about different plants, how to attract birds, and much more.
Susan, when and why did you decide to start your business? My grandfather had a grocery store on Madison Avenue, where the jewelry store is now [Richard Gretz Goldsmiths], next to the Book Bin. Grandpa bought the grocery store in 1927 and ran it for quite a few years. Since my dad grew up in a business, he wanted to start his own. When he opened Schmidt’s on this site in 1959, it was on the edge of town. It started as a hardware store, and he gradually moved out of hardware and into garden. If you look right above the door on the 29th Street entrance, you can see the sign that used to be over Grandpa’s store.
I started working in my parents’ store when I was eleven, so I grew up in the business. I’ve always been interested in helping out, but I’ve come and gone as an adult. Dad retired at age 85, and I bought the store. That was five years ago in July. I had been helping my dad for the previous seven years before that. I lived on the East coast, so I was helping out by phone, fax, and email, and I flew out several times a year.
Tell us more about your services. What are your favorites? We specialize in home gardens for small and medium sized lots – blooming annuals, perennials, vegetable starts, and hanging baskets. We don’t sell trees or shrubs. We’re into organic vegetable starts, seeds, and organic fertilizers. People love “Bumper Crop” compost. We’re very well known for it. Also, we’re deep into wild birds – feeders and information – and we have a popular email newsletter we send out about gardening and birds. We sell everything that makes it fun to garden.
We’re different from other nurseries because we do everything to add color to your yard. I adore flowers, and we sell a lot of fun garden gift items.
What does being featured as the Local Business of the Week mean to you? It’s really fun. Who doesn’t like to talk about their business?! I appreciate the opportunity to reach a bigger audience. I’ve always supported CIBA and the Sustainability Coalition.
Does your business fill an unusual niche? What we really try for is to have the information people need in order to be successful. If you’re having a bad day, we want to cheer you up. We try to have fun!
I would encourage everyone to sign up for our email list. Instead of doing a lot of advertising, we build on our customer base by offering them good deals. We do a lot of give-aways. Our customers are supporting us, so we want to give back.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner? The two biggest challenges have been the “box boys” [big box stores] and the recession. We focus on what we can do best or better. We always try to have the information the customer needs. As long as we do our best, we’re not dragged down by what’s going on around us.
What do you feel is the impact of local independent businesses on Corvallis, and what does the future look like for the local independents? I’m extremely thankful to the citizens of Corvallis. They really support local businesses. There’s a place for “box boys” and internet sales – independents can’t be everything to everybody. We do the best we can with what we have.
What do you enjoy most about owning a local, independent business in Corvallis? I love talking to people, hearing what they’re up to, seeing what they’re doing. And I love my staff. They’re the best! And who doesn’t like to work with flowers?!
What is your relationship to the community? I am very supportive of CIBA and the Sustainability Coalition. We also do a lot of small individual donations for schools and non-profits. By giving small donations, we can reach more people.
Have you added jobs since the business started? Do you think your employees are better off working for a local independent rather than a chain? We add employees seasonally, in the spring, and we have a combination of full-time employees and part-time college students. I make an effort to work around people’s schedules. Working for an independent business allows for more individual care and treatment than a chain can provide. Everyone who works for me becomes an avid gardener. I really grow gardeners!
How important is sustainability to you and your business? All of our staff are very aware of sustainability. We recycle everything we can. We take Styrofoam to the South Co-op, and we work closely with the North Co-op [located next to Schmidt’s]. They give us their boxes, and we reuse them for people to carry things home. We also sell bulk bird seed. We’ve been helping to promote the effort to have Benton County become the first certified Community Wildlife Habitat in Oregon.
(Interview and article by Annette Mills – November 24, 2013)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Community Independent Business Alliance (CIBA).