Garden Center magazine announces dates, location of second annual Executive Summit
Attendees at the 2019 Garden Center Executive Summit participate in one of several roundtables offered during the event.
Photo by Jono Gross

Garden Center magazine announces dates, location of second annual Executive Summit

The three-day educational conference, developed in partnership with industry leaders, will take place Feb. 3-5, 2020, in New Orleans.


Garden Center magazine is thrilled to announce that the second annual Garden Center Executive Summit will take place Feb. 3-5, 2020, at the New Orleans Marriott, just steps away from the cultural center of the iconic city, the French Quarter. 

The Garden Center Executive Summit is the educational conference for retailers and will bring key decision-makers from independent garden centers across North America together to discuss how to make the most of the opportunities and rise above the challenges facing the industry. 

The Garden Center Executive Summit will include solutions-based sessions with actionable ideas on how to engage with customers and understand what drives consumers today, how to develop an inspiring company culture to motivate your team and how to navigate the evolving roles and responsibilities of owners and upper-level managers. 

Susan Bachman West, middle, president of Bachman's, and Mark Bigej, right, COO of Al's Garden & Home, shared ideas during a panel about fostering a positive company culture and engaging employees. Michelle Simakis, editor at large for Garden Center magazine, moderated the panel. Photo by Jono Gross

“The Executive Summit will provide a forum to strategize on topics not addressed anywhere else to move the industry forward and grow together,” said Jim Gilbride, group publisher of Garden Center and its sister publications.

The conference will include a mix of keynote addresses, panel discussions and roundtable breakout sessions, in addition to opportunities to network during the conference. The Garden Center Executive Summit will also celebrate businesses on Garden Center magazine’s Top 100 Independent Garden Centers List — companies that together have a $1.2-billion sales volume across their 294 locations.

“Attendees from the inaugural Garden Center Executive Summit in 2019 really appreciated gathering with other industry members and hearing from their peers in the carefully curated, high-level educational program that was created in collaboration with Garden Center’s Editorial and Conference Advisory boards,” said Kate Spirgen, editor of Garden Center magazine. “This year’s event will provide many of the same opportunities for networking, learning and problem-solving.”

Ian Baldwin, veteran industry consultant, shared the five most important metrics garden centers should track during the 2019 Garden Center Executive Summit.  Photo by Jono Gross

Like last year, industry leaders and business experts from other markets will comprise the speaker lineup.

“I was very impressed with the first-ever Garden Center Executive Summit. The quality of speakers from within the industry blew me away. Great presentations on relevant topics!” said Mark Bigej, COO of Al’s Garden & Home, with four retail locations and three growing facilities in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and Garden Center Conference Advisory Board member. “I loved the fact that attendees were engaged and had several great questions after each presentation.  It was clear that people were learning! The accommodations and conference rooms couldn’t have been better.” 

Julie Kouhia, CEO of Molbak's Garden + Home, takes questions from the audience after her keynote presentation at the 2019 Garden Center Executive Summit. Photo by Jono Gross 

Jim Feinson, CEO of Gardener’s Supply Company, also noted the quality and range of the presentations and content by garden center owners/operators.

“Everyone I spoke with, from the ‘big guys’ to smaller single location operators, walked away with a ton of notes and ideas,” Feinson said. “Really noteworthy was the number of younger speakers and the balance of female presenters, representing women owner/operators.  For so many garden centers that need to evolve, the information was innovative, highly applicable and implementable.”

The 2020 Garden Center Executive Summit Advisory Board includes:

Susan Bachman West, president, Bachman’s
Richard Christakes, CEO, Alsip Home & Nursery
Frank Benzing, president and CEO, SummerWinds Nursery
Mark Bigej, chief of operations, Al’s Garden & Home
Rob Sproule, co-owner, Salisbury Greenhouse
Mick Mulhall, president, Mulhall’s

Tammy Behm, owner and managing director, Maypop Coffee & Garden Shop

Read full bios of advisory board members at

For more information, visit 

About Garden Center: Garden Center magazine is the leading industry trade publication serving independent garden center retailers in North America, providing business owners with the research, insight and analysis to help them grow their companies.