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on the needs of Independent Garden Centers.

Garden Centers of America: Together We're Better! 


We are so excited about this year's Summer Tour to San Francisco. It has been a long time since we've toured the west coast, and it is proving to be an exciting exploration of new and different things!

Watch for tour highlights coming soon! We can't wait to share all the
fun of this tour.


Dana Pike-Van Vlake, President/CEO The Family Tree Garden Center, Snellville, GA
As the daughter of Pete Pike, Dana Pike-Van Vlake grew up learning the in’s and out’s of successful garden retailing from one of the best. Her dad was the founder of Pike Nurseries, the Atlanta-based retail powerhouse that consistently ranked at the top of IGC Magazine’s IGC 100 report prior to joining forces with No. 1 Armstrong Garden Centers in 2008. Dana’s roots and knowledge grew deeper after she graduated from the University of Georgia with a marketing degree and decided to stay in the family business for the next 20 years.

When Pete sold the business, Dana thought she would enjoy retired life for a few years, playing tennis and taking care of her family. But the dream of owning her own garden center stayed with her – after all, it’s in her blood.

Then a former Pike Nurseries location became available, and all the pieces fell into place.

In March 2010, Dana opened The Family Tree Garden Center in Snellville, GA. She sought to continue her father’s legacy and expand upon it with new ideas that would make the garden shopping experience that much more enjoyable for today’s consumer.

Many of the new ideas Dana implemented this season came from her experience on the GCA Summer Tour of Ohio last year. “I grew up in Pike, so I had only known Georgia nurseries. I’d never really been to other garden centers,” she says. “In Ohio, the stores we visited were top-notch. We got so many great ideas. My iPad was completely full of pictures. We brought back those concepts and put them into play here.”

For instance, Dana implemented a landscaping sketch service she first saw on the tour. Customers bring in photos of their yard to the landscape architect on staff. “We’ll do a quick sketch – a plan for the yard or a part of the yard. Then, we’ll show them the plants, and they buy them right then and there,” she says. “What could have been a typical $55 sale is now $300, $400, $500 - because they have a plan.”

The impact of this service goes beyond a one-time sale, she says. “These customers always come back because you’ve established a rapport. You’ve educated them. Now, they’re going to be successful.”

Dana is committed to keeping the shopping experience fresh at Family Tree. One of the benefits of owning and operating a single location is the flexibility in purchasing product, she says. “When we had 26 stores with Pike, you’d have to satisfy all 26 stores. When you have a single location, you can do more,”
she explains. “You can get specialty clients and buy from small, local growers. We don’t have to buy a thousand; we can buy 20. Sometimes, we have plants that are a year out from being introduced.”

‘We’re All Family’

While Dana brings inspired new concepts to her garden center, Family Tree is rooted in maintaining the traditions passed down from her father.

Dana wants her customers to know the garden center is founded on a solid legacy, one they are invited to be a part of. “When people come in, we tell the story of what Family Tree is, and that starts from the name because it is in my family tree, from my father, and passed down from generations to generations to come,” she says. “We look at our customers and employees as part of that family, too. It’s one big family tree.”

Dana makes customers feel at home by incorporating her family’s history and traditions around the garden center, like the rocking chairs on the front porch with her parents’ names on them and the store’s museum showcasing her father’s journey to success from his beginnings as a boy on the farm.

Making customers feel like a part of the business is the type of southern hospitality Family Tree draws upon to ensure repeat business. “Our customers are used to a little bit of hand-holding here because they need help. It’s our goal to always educate them because the better informed they are, the more successful they will be,” Dana says. “We want them to tell their friends about us. We know word of mouth is the best form of advertising.”

With reminders of the Pike family legacy throughout the garden center, Dana remains humble and appreciative of the successes she and her family have realized throughout the years.

The inspiration Dana gained from seeing the garden centers and networking with fellow industry professionals on the GCA Summer Tour was key in adding to her knowledge and experience. “I learned a lot,” she says.

She always collaborates with her team, which includes her general manager, who was her boss when she was only 16. “I rely on our staff. I trust them. They have a lot of ownership in what they do. They have great ideas, and nine times out of 10, we put their ideas into play.”

Click here to read more Member Profiles and see additional photos.


May 23, 2014 • Winners Honored at GCA Networking Luncheon, Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
August 05, 2014 • Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, MD
August 10, 2014 • Various locations in Ireland
August 19, 2014 • Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
August 21, 2014 12:30 PM • Rooftop at Navy Pier, IGC Show, Chicago, IL

IGC East & IGC Chicago Registration Is Now Open!

Even more benefits are on the horizon for GCA members!

IGC Chicago
will convene, as usual, at Navy Pier on August 19-21, 2014. IGC East will make its debut August 5-7, 2014 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center complex in National Harbor, Maryland, located on the Potomac River, just minutes from Washington, DC, providing easy access to GCA members.

Both IGC Shows will offer all the features and benefits GCA member have come to expect: thousands of new products, free inspiring keynotes and headliner concerts, plus scores of spot-on conference sessions and networking opportunities at the GCA member lunch, as well as all of the GCA-member discounts you enjoy in Chicago. It's an opportunity for members to select the show that best fits their schedule and travel preferences.

IGC Show Highlights Building Excitement

Free Keynotes:
IGC Chicago
  • Martha Stewart - America's preeminent home lifestyles expert and business mogul.
  • Corey Bordine - Passionate retail dynamo with years of real garden center experience.
  • Henry Hutcheson - Leader in family business solutions who has walked the walk.

IGC East
  • Willie Degel - Customer service advocate and star of Food Network's Restaurant Stakeout.
  • Corey Bordine - Passionate retail dynamo with years of real garden center experience.
  • Peter Shankman - Marketing guru with social media savvy.

Garden Center Tours:
IGC Chicago

  • Knupper Nursery & Landscape, Palatine
  • Platt Hill Nursery, Carpentersville
  • The Gardens at Ball, Ball Horticultural Company, West Chicago
  • Wannemaker’s Home and Garden, Downers Grove
  • City Escape Garden Center & Design Studio, Chicago

IGC East

  • Greenstreet Gardens Flowers & Gifts, Alexandria, VA
  • Homestead Gardens, Davidsonville, MD
  • Homestead Gardens, Severna Park, MD
  • U.S. National Arboretum
  • U.S. Botanic Garden
  • U.S. Capitol Grounds

Educational Sessions
IGC Chicago and IGC East

Special Tuesday Workshop: Using Landscape Design Services To Build Garden Center Sales & Loyalty

All New Tracks for 2014: Six Sessions Each
  • Manage Your Inventory To Maximize Profits with James Dion
  • Profitable Online Marketing Strategies with Kyle Lacy
  • Marketing & Sales Strategies That Really Work with Rick Segel
  • Get Your Garden Center On Track For Profit with Tom Shay
  • Your Toughest Store Problems Solved with Judy Sharpton (five sessions)

Be sure to log in to get your member-savings discount code when registering for IGC Chicago or IGC East.

Visit for more information.

GCA Best Bathroom Entries Now Open

Does your garden center treat your customers like royalty with a clean and inviting “throne”-room? Your bathrooms could earn your store a special recognition in Garden Centers of America’s (GCA) Best Garden Center Bathroom Awards. Now in their fourth year, they recognize IGC retailers whose restrooms contribute to the store’s favorable shopping experience. 

If you’ve upped the ante with a standout bathroom at your store, GCA wants to hear from you. The search is on for the industry’s best bathrooms, including but not limited to recent renovations and remodels. Entries are accepted through 5 p.m. EDT, July 15, for this juried competition.

The GCA Best Bathroom Awards Gold Award Winner will receive a plaque to display in store to customers and one free registration for next year’s GCA Summer Tour 2015. Other recognitions will include a Silver Award and several Awards of Merit, honored with plaques.

‘People Come Just for the Bathroom!’

GCA Best Bathroom Award winners say their restrooms are
   2013 Merit Award Winner
   Themed murals at Brent and
   Becky's Bulbs, garden at day
   and garden at night, were
   painted by former employee
   Nancy Fuchs.

still connecting with customers in a unique way. The 2012 Gold Award-winning “Man Cave” bathroom at Baker’s Acres in Alexandria, OH, gives customers another reason to visit the garden center, says Owner Chris Baker. “We usually change our bathroom every two years, but this concept was held over by popular demand,” he says. “It ties in with our theme of making our store a fun place to shop. Some people come here just to check out the bathroom!”

Last year’s Silver Award-winning bathroom at Oakland Nursery in Delaware, OH, didn’t require a lot of effort in the design, and its impact has made the investment worthwhile, says Melissa Bargar, Creative Director for the garden center. Her design uses discarded plastic plant pots and water bottles, cut, bent and painted into flowers of different shapes and sizes. “It took me a couple of days and a bucket of paint,” says Bargar. “To know that people notice it - these are the little details that attract customers. You don’t get that at Wal-Mart.”

In fact, the appeal of convenient and clean restrooms ranks high in women’s decisions on where to shop, according to retail visionary Paco Underhill, author of the best-selling books What Women Want: The Science of Female Shopping and Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.

Denise Hutchins, Manager at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, VA, can attest to this. The garden center’s bathrooms with themed murals - one that depicts a garden at day and the other, a garden at night - won a Merit Award in 2013. “When we initially began decorating the bathrooms, we changed them yearly, until we had a local artist come in and paint our ‘garden’ themed bathrooms,” says Hutchins. “The customers seem to really enjoy the bathrooms. Many will go to one bathroom and then peek to see the design of the other one. Some will even go get their friends and take them to the bathrooms to see the artwork.

“When your bathrooms look nice and are clean, it shows the customer that you care about them,” she says. “The customer feels that we want them to enjoy visiting us and will come back again and again.”

How to Enter: E-mail several photos of your store bathrooms, saved in jpeg format, along with a description of the bathrooms, the concept behind the designs and their benefits to your garden center. Include store name and key contact, address, phone and e-mail address, and send to:

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