Facing extensive competition, nurseries on the South End have to bring something different to the table to succeed.
Venture Out Nursery in Clinton aims to do just that.
A stroll through Venture Out Nursery feels like a walk in the park. The plant store, located just south of the Highway 525 and Maxwelton Road intersection, is chock-full of ornate paths, rockeries and landscaping rather than rows of plants in a greenhouse. And according to Nursery Manager Eric Studebaker, the nursery’s look and approach is unique.
“It’s not like any nursery I’ve ever worked at over my 30-year-plus career,” Studebaker said. “The owner is a landscape designer, and the nursery gives customers an idea of what he can do to their yards.”
Studebaker previously worked at Bayview Farm and Garden for 14 years.
The space wasn’t always ornamental like it is now. Previously Kirk’s Nursery and Garden, the location had a facelift after the new owners acquired the property and opened the shop last month.
“It had a lot of good bones, but we’ve been fixing the space up,” Studebaker said.
Over the course of a year, co-owner Garth Heggenes and his team from his landscaping business have cleaned the 3-acre property of blackberry patches and dead plants. They removed a collapsed greenhouse and built new features such as a new office, a shaded area for “shade plants,” a rain garden for runoff, a small decorative cabin and pathways that meander through the nursery. The idea behind Venture Out is to give customers a glimpse of what their yards could look like.
The business strategy is unorthodox for the industry but it seems to be working, or at least it’s impressing customers.
“It’s day and night from what it was before,” Freeland resident Gail DaPont said. “I’ve seen it get overgrown over the years, but what they’ve done here is fabulous. It’s just wonderful to walk through.”
For Heggenes, the goal is to build more than a nursery. He wants to create a space for the community to come, take a stroll and find inspiration for their garden’s design. Venture Out is essentially Heggenes’ way to advertise his two businesses in a single location.
“Our plan was to develop a place that wasn’t necessarily a parking lot nursery, but a display garden where we could show the landscaping projects we did in the past,” Heggenes said. “The setting alone sets us apart from what I’ve seen on the island.”
Studebaker says that prices at Venture Out Nursery are cheaper than elsewhere on South Whidbey. He said Heggenes is able to keep transportation costs low by utilizing his landscaping business and by shipping the materials along with plants for the nursery. The larger loads and fewer trips is cost efficient. Heggenes added he no longer goes through a middleman flower vendor in the Everett area, so the business is able to bring plants directly from growers.
Studebaker says he prioritizes a selection of native plants. And being native could be crucial for the plants’ well being, since all of the vegetation is out in the open.
“It’s like a park, but one where you can pick out which plants you like and take them home,” Studebaker said.
Venture Out Nursery is currently open on Wednesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Heggenes plans to open the nursery doors seven days a week once spring rolls around and his team adds some finishing touches, such as a greenhouse.