Jeanne Scott, owner of Landscape Adventure in Northville, remembers a time when the supermarket didn’t carry flowers and big-box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot — with all their plants and garden products — didn’t exist.
Things were different then, she said — which partly explains why she’s selling her business’s two-acre Sound Avenue property after 36 years.
“It’s time,” Ms. Scott said recently of plans to close the store shortly after Mother’s Day. “Times are changing.”
She will continue to offer floral and property maintenance services by phone and online under the name Landscape Adventure.
In the late 1970s, Landscape Adventure was nothing more than a small nursery operated by Fred and Lois Reeve, she recalled. The couple approached Ms. Scott about taking over the business in 1977 and, after doing so, she built a greenhouse later that fall. In subsequent years, she added a large flower and gift shop, one large building filled with everything from Christmas decorations to spools of yarn. Today, Landscape Adventure offers a full range of landscaping services — everything from lawnmowing to Christmas light installations — and sells plants, flowers and decorative garden accessories. The business has also provided floral services for wedding, funerals and other events.
“The first year, we put out a big display with straw and sold pumpkins,” she said. “Nobody had done that out here before. They had done it out west, but not here. But then, after a while, other places started doing it and the farm stands started selling all the same things the garden stores were selling. But, you know, we had quite a few years where garden centers were the place to go.”
In recent years, however, Ms. Scott said she’s experienced an influx of online orders for floral arrangements from companies such as 1800Flowers from customers she doesn’t know. The global recession didn’t help business either, she said.
“I definitely wasn’t making money having this place filled with tons of inventory, because people are used to going to box stores,” she said. “Home Depot and all those places are giving away plants cheaper than I can sell them.”
That doesn’t mean small stores aren’t economically viable, she said — owners can get a leg up on national chain competitors by making a commitment to offer superb customer service.
“You can’t just roll out plants and expect people to come in,” she said. “People want someone to tell them what grows in the sun and shade — little tips they won’t get other places. You don’t get that in box stores.”
Customer service has always been key to Ms. Scott’s success, she said — long before Home Depot came on the scene. And nearly four decades ago, when the Babylon native assumed ownership of Landscape Adventure, she was a confident 23-year-old who truly believed, she said, that she was “on top of the world.”
“It didn’t faze me,” Ms. Scott said. “I came in not the least bit afraid. I thought I had all the answers.”
She had gotten her first job when she was just 13, watering plants, cleaning windows and eventually managing the greenhouses at her uncle Tom DiDominica’s garden center, Dee’s Nursery & Florist, in Oceanside.
“Let me tell ya: I wish I had her working here,” said Mr. DiDominica, who opened his shop in 1954. “She’s probably one of the best [workers] we’ve ever had. She’s just smart — she didn’t have to be taught. She taught herself, by watching and listening. She can do anything.”
Evidently, Ms. Scott also has a knack for saving money. During the 10 years she worked for her uncle, she saved every dollar she earned, sometimes wrapping stacks of bills in tin foil and hiding them in the back of the freezer where, if discovered, her family would think they were packets of meat, the type of frugal behavior that enabled her to purchase Landscape Adventure from the Reeves with $10,000 cash she had saved and kept stuffed under a mattress.
Not everyone thought the twenty-something knew what she was doing in those early days.
And some people even made sexist remarks.
“A customer would come in and say, ‘You’d get a little more business if you put lipstick on,’” she remembered. “People thought they were doing me a favor. I just laughed.”
Giving birth to four children proved no obstacle to Ms. Scott, either — a divorced mother, she simply brought her son and three daughters to work with her when they were young.
“I remember jumping on pallets of peat moss in the back and getting in trouble because we used to stick our fingers in them,” said her eldest daughter, Rebecca Riccio, 35, of South Jamesport. “There are people who remember us taking naps in cardboard boxes with blankets on the floor.
“We’d eat dinner right here,” she said, gesturing to a narrow wooden table in the center of the shop where her mother conducts floral consultations. “We’d all pitch in so we could get out of here before midnight.”
Long hours and seven-day workweeks are something Ms. Scott is relieved to bid farewell to, though she said she’ll miss interacting with customers.
“Every time someone comes in and I tell them I’m leaving, they almost cry,” she said. “And I say, ‘Look it! You’ve gotta be happy for me.’ I just have to change things up a little bit. I have grandchildren now; I want to spend a little more time with them. I’m hoping to get a few days off a month.”
Ms. Scott declined to say who she’s sold the property to, but said the store’s name will change and that she anticipates the new owner will “put his own spin on things.”
“It’s bittersweet but it’s time,” Ms. Riccio said. “Nobody wants to be here until 2 a.m. the night before Valentine’s Day. And she can’t keep working like this.”
“It’s emotional but exciting,” Ms. Scott agreed. “We’re all ready for the next stage. Everyone’s ready for the next stage.”