Making way for new green thumbs: Hadley Garden Center owners prepare to sell business

  • Janine and Tom Giles, who own Hadley Garden Center, amid poinsettias in the greenhouse, Tuesday.   STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Janine Giles, who owns Hadley Garden Center with her husband, Tom, works in the office on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Janine and Tom Giles, who are the owners of Hadley Garden Center, outside their store, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019.   STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tom Giles, left, helps Dan Ziomek, his nursery manager, attach a Christmas tree to a post for display on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ed Machno, the original owner of Hadley Garden Center. COURTESY HADLEY GARDEN CENTER

  • Tom and Janine Giles in 1989. COURTESY HADLEY GARDEN CENTER

  • Ed Machno, original owner of Hadley Garden Center. COURTESY HADLEY GARDEN CENTER

Staff Writer
Friday, November 29, 2019

HADLEY — Day in and day out for the past 31 years, through the busy spring planting and holiday seasons to the lulls of midwinter, Tom and Janine Giles have emphasized their responsibility to customers as owners of the Hadley Garden Center.

“People give you a chance, and it’s up to you to meet their needs,” Tom Giles said.

“This is a great place to do business,” Janine Giles said of the store’s location on Hadley’s Route 9 corridor, in the midst of national big-box stores and near the University of Massachusetts and other colleges. “I think we’ve tried to always found the business on great customer service.”

As residents of Hadley, the couple understand that many customers appreciate being able to buy local and that it is important to carry a complete line of gardening products both for regulars as well as those who might come just once a year to get a Christmas tree or wreath.

Beginning in January, though, the Giles’ will begin easing into a new phase in their lives as they complete a sale of the business to Gardener’s Supply Co., a Burlington, Vermont company that has stores in Burlington and Williston, Vermont, and Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Tom Giles, 67, has been a part of the Hadley Garden Center since 1973, when he became the first full-time employee for original owners Ed and Fran Machno. In 1988, the couple bought the then 25-year-old business.

“We’ve always considered ourselves stewards of this business, and these folks have got a great organization and skill set,” Tom Giles said of the new owners.

“They can take the business to the next level,” said Janine Giles.

The decision wasn’t reached quickly. Tom Giles explained he was approached about a year ago but didn’t immediately think that an arrangement could be worked out.

“We weren’t actually trying to sell, but we knew we had to figure out the end goal,” Giles said. “We were wondering if we could get together on an idea that would be mutually beneficial.”

That discussion resumed in June and July, with the Giles heading to the other stores to learn more about Gardener’s.

“When the opportunity presented itself, it was very, very important for us to check things out, to vet it,” he said. “You want to see it, meet the people, what they’re selling, to see how they interact with customers. We had a great feeling.”

They also saw Gardener’s as being selective, with a philosophy of social responsibility, reducing the carbon footprint and sharing values with this region. The company’s stores are near college campuses, the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College, similar to Hadley Garden Center.

“We thought they were progressive and caring,” Tom Giles said.

The Giles had no succession plan in place, with their two grown children working in other fields — a daughter in marketing in the Albany area and a son a television sports anchor in Boston — though both had worked at the store while growing up.

Janine Giles, 63, said she had known Gardener’s as an online and catalog company that also did some manufacturing. “We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy decision,” she said.

She added that critical elements were also Gardener’s commitment to donate 8 percent of profits to charity and the opportunity for employees to own the business through earning stock and a share of the company's profits through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. The store currently has six full-time employees and six half-time employees.

Gardener’s is also considered a Certified B Corporation, a category of businesses across the country that are required to balance profit and purpose.

Gardener’s CEO Jim Feinson in a statement described his company as being selective in identifying its fourth location.

“They’re just fantastic folks to work with and really smart, really caring business owners,” Feinson said of the Giles. “The Hadley Garden Center has a terrific reputation, and we look forward to building on their legacy.”

Retail manager Pat Pearsall said the Hadley Garden Center will not change significantly, though online purchasing will be added.

“Different communities ask for different things, and so we’ll listen to the customers and adapt to what they want,” Pearsall said.

The Giles will remain on site through at least June.

“They want our two levels of expertise and to see people and to reassure them,” Janine Giles said.

The couple will remain part of the community and aren’t calling this a retirement; it’s more about catching their breaths and being able to take advantage of living in the Valley, Giles said. “Tom and I aren’t going anywhere.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.