Matthew Schultz

Departments - Three Questions

Schultz, an executive at grower-retailer Schultz Garden Center, discusses sales during COVID, labor and more. Based in Glenville, N.Y., Schultz grows nearly all of the plant material it sells, including annuals, perennials and vegetables, in 40,000 square feet of greenhouse space.

August 19, 2021

Photo courtesy of Schultz Garden Center

Greenhouse Management: What has the last year, year-plus been like for your business? And what products have been most popular?

Matthew Schultz: To sum it up in one word — and I’m sure you’ve heard it a lot — it’s been incredible. Furthermore, it’s been crazy. Obviously, in the last year, we’ve seen incredible sales. We could not believe how much we sold through last year and this year; we’ve been doubled up on most of our stuff and sold through all of that as well. We’ve witnessed and benefited [from] the trend of gardening being really popular over the last two years during COVID. And it’s not just one product — we really have sold through everything. The stuff that hasn’t sold are products that came out later or missed the ball and got out too late. Especially last year, we probably could have sold empty boxes to people.

GM: Now that society is, at least a little bit, opening up, what has business been like?

MS: It’s been down a little bit, at least here for us. To look back: The day before the mask mandate was lifted, our parking lot was full. The day after it was lifted, we were empty. It’s pretty much been that way since. That’s been since around mid-way. Right around then, we saw a dramatic decrease in our sales as it looks like people are going to go out more and do things that they couldn’t do a year or so ago. Which is kind of a good thing overall ... One thing I will say is that we haven’t done much in the houseplant category. That’s one thing I think we could do more with and target more of what people are looking for as opposed to various succulents or the one-off plant we bring in.

GM: During COVID, and after, what has the labor situation been like? Did you ever have a need for or have to consider bringing in more labor?

MS: We never really thought of bringing in anybody, especially at that time when COVID was [at] its peak. You can always use more hands, especially during peak season, but we were not even considering it last year. We vaguely talked about it this year, but we really didn’t want to manage having new people and deal with all of the COVID restrictions associated with that. So we decided, at this point, we’ll continue the way we are. Potentially, in the future, we might add some additional hands, but we’ll have to see how it goes for the next year or so. We also of course hope that people will continue to garden. Even if it’s not everyone, there’s hopefully a subset of people who still do. The question is, how many that we gained are going to stay? And how many [customers] got into gardening because they couldn’t do anything else, and did they enjoy it enough to keep doing it? Unfortunately, we don’t have a good enough gauge on that just yet.