Robert Siebenthaler, Vice President, Siebenthaler’s, Centerville, OH

From: Garden Chic, January/February, 2013

Robert Siebenthaler, Vice President, Siebenthaler’s, Centerville, OH
As Vice President of a company that has been in business since 1870, Robert Siebenthaler, 29 years old, brings a contemporary perspective that’s already drawing a new group of customers - Gen X / Gen Y. By continually coming up with creative ways to get these new gardeners through the doors, Siebenthaler’s, in Centerville, OH, is positioning itself for solid success in the years to come.

To help draw the sought-after younger set, the garden center offers The New Gardener Series. “It’s a four-part series that starts with basic landscape architecture in a 45-minute group session and ends with attendees bringing in their site drawings and meeting with landscape designers individually,” Siebenthaler says. “We’re gearing it toward the younger first-time homeowner.” The program costs $25 up front, and visitors receive a $5 gift card for each class they attend; in the end, it costs them only $5, and they have $20 to spend at Siebenthaler’s.

What keeps these new gardeners coming back after the series has wrapped? It’s all about helping them realize success in their gardening pursuits, Siebenthaler says. “We’re educating the person who hasn’t been involved with gardening their entire lives - the new homeowner. It’s a very big step, and we do our best to help them take that step and get a good end result with their landscape.”

One of the things that helps assure customers’ success in their yards and gardens is Siebenthaler’s high-quality green goods. The garden center grows the majority of the plant material it sells, excluding specialty items, at its 450-acre nursery. “We have the depth to provide virtually any plant customers want,” Siebenthaler says. “They’re grown on-site, which gives a very wholesome feel and a good brand to it as opposed to getting something that was shipped in from Timbuktu.”

Typically, younger gardeners go for plants that provide instant gratification and whatever makes their gardening experience less time-consuming. “Many of us are fairly impulsive - we want something that’s in bloom, and we want it now,” Siebenthaler says. “Also, we want the types of products that will reduce maintenance and free up time - landscape fabrics, preemergents, soil moists.” These are easy sells to the younger set, he says.

To show Gen X / Gen Y just what is possible in the garden, Siebenthaler has his own personal edible garden, about 5,000 square feet, on-site. “We do our best to grow pretty much everything we offer in our line of vegetables and herbs. We have about one-third fruits and the rest vegetables. We do everything - sweet potatoes, corn, blueberries, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, okra, peas, beans, potatoes, onions and carrots. It’s big enough that we would never go hungry.”

Always Tapping Trends
Siebenthaler’s keeps its finger on the pulse of the industry’s heavy marketers to promote the trends that resonate with gardeners, novice and experienced alike. “They have the money to sway consumer opinion just by featuring certain things.” Siebenthaler says. “Not that we copy what they’re doing, but if they’re promoting apples, we can’t ignore apples and just do oranges. You have to follow that money trail and make sure you have an idea of what they’re doing.”

Siebenthaler also turns to magazines for trend inspiration. He says, “We use Garden Chic to make sure we’re not missing out on anything.”

It also helps that one of the garden center’s landscape designers was formerly an interior decorator. “He keeps abreast of design trends. He does many of the in-store displays that invigorate and inspire the garden center purchasers,” Siebenthaler says. “We try to give the customer a glimpse of the end result of what they could accomplish within the store. That’s the best lifeline to true design and trend inspiration.”

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