Cindy and Charlie Thigpen, Owners, Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery, Birmingham, AL

From: IGC Retailer, November/December, 2012

Cindy and Charlie Thigpen, Owners, Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery,  Birmingham, AL
What is a typical day like for you?
There really is no typical day. Every day is different, and they change with the seasons. Our days also turn into nights. Our garden shop is only 2-1/2 years young, so we often work 12 to 14 hours a day.

What takes up most of your time?
We are a small company, so we spend a lot of time with hoses in our hands. We also do a lot of grooming, such as deadheading, weeding or removing brown foliage. We want our racks clean and green!

What “best practices” do you incorporate?
We work hard at customer service. We want our employees to be cheerful and helpful and make our customers feel welcome. We also train our employees to be knowledgeable. We can’t compete with the big box stores on pricing, but people love good service and information.

What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of our job is meeting and teaching people about plants and gardening. It’s fun to see people get excited about gardening. It’s also rewarding when they come back to your shop and tell you about their successes. You know they’re hooked when they show you a photo of their handy work. If they are successful, they will be back.

What’s the worst part of your job?
I hate to throw away plants. When we’re chucking plants in the dumpster, it makes me sick. Either we ordered too much, the plants weren’t properly maintained or we didn’t hone in on what our customers wanted. Our job is to keep plants alive and sell them.

Do you have any new projects in the works?
We’re working on a landscape plan that involves installing a courtyard, fountain, cutting garden and acoustic fencing to reduce sound from a nearby highway. The 10-foot fencing looks like a normal wooden fence from inside the courtyard, with the acoustic material on the backside. Using new materials helps us grow as designers.

What does the future hold for you?
We started our company during the worst of economic times, but we’ve grown each season and have created a solid customer base. We’re just focusing on moving forward.

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