The Green Spot keeps growing


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When Bernie Whetter started working at The Green Spot Home and Garden in Brandon, Man., in 2004, he had no idea he’d one day be running the place.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/07/2022 (259 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When Bernie Whetter started working at The Green Spot Home and Garden in Brandon, Man., in 2004, he had no idea he’d one day be running the place.

“My previous job had come to an end, I was 50 years old, and I thought, ‘Now, what am I going to do?’” he says.

He’d earned a degree in agriculture years before and decided to follow it up by going for an MBA. Needing a job while he attended school, he called The Green Spot and was told he could help in the nursery.

“I left a $90,000 a year job and got one for $9 an hour,” he says, laughing. “It was great, though. It was fulfilling work.”

The owner would joke about having Whetter buy the company, but he was set on finishing school. After graduation, he started to seriously consider it.

Near the end of 2007, it was a done deal.

Located in Brandon, Man., The Green Spot opened its doors in 1978. The overall footprint hasn’t changed much when it comes to greenhouse space, with the original 11,613 square metres (125,000 square feet) reduced just slightly as it wasn’t being used in its entirety.

Whetter added 511 square metres (5,500 square feet) to another part of the building just last year, making way for two local businesses to set up shop.

One of those businesses is The BloomBox, a Brandon-area florist that’s been in business since 1986. With bouquets for every occasion, The BloomBox is a natural extension of The Green Spot’s garden services.

The other business is Chez Angela’s Secret Garden Café. Chez Angela has long had a downtown Brandon location, home to its original café and bakery. With its second location at The Green Spot, Chez Angela brings its famous baked goods, soups, sandwiches and artisan espresso drinks to a hungry shopping crowd — or those just looking to spend an afternoon eating, drinking and meandering through the greenhouse and retail shop.

Whetter expanded the retail shop during renos too, adding a dedicated clothing area. His favourite new space, however, is the Manitoba Foods Market, which features food from Manitoba growers and makers.

“It’s a very small part of my company, but it’s been a lot of fun,” he says.

Keeping it local is the theme at The Green Spot, except when it comes to those things that can’t be grown in our Manitoba climate — like tropical plants, which Whetter brings in from Florida every year. They’re best sellers in early spring, when Manitoba starts to come out of its deep-freeze and people crave a bit of warm-weather inspiration in their homes.

Whetter co-ordinates their arrival with a family fun day, inviting customers to relax in comfy patio chairs while reggae music plays in the background. He brings in a pile of sand for kids to enjoy, adding to the tropical experience.

The Green Spot hosts other special events throughout the year, including musical guests, workshops and even a farmer’s market.

“We try to do something once a month when we’re not in a busy season,” says Whetter.

By the middle of April, business is at its peak, he says, and it starts to slow after June. Holiday season is another busy time, and then it’s relatively quiet until the spring rush begins again.

There are 15 or so full-time employees that work at The Green Spot year-round, with up to 50 seasonal employees.

“We’re not run like a corporate enterprise,” Whetter says. “We are quite like family here.”

Many staff members are gardeners themselves, always willing to share with customers what they’ve learned in the garden.

“None of it is textbook,” Whetter says. “It’s information they’ve gathered from their own practices and I feel that’s the best kind. Everything is tried and true or tried and failed, but customers appreciate those stories. They’ll come with their own stories, so we also learn from them.”

The Green Spot also offers small-scale landscaping and winter snow removal.

It truly is a one-stop shop, and then some.

At 67, Whetter says he still has a lot of energy left, along with a passion to keep the business moving forward.

“I tell people I’m still in my honeymoon phase with it,” he says.

That’s one thing that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

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