A Winning Combination
Campbell’s Greenhouses started in 1983 when Betty and her late first husband, Mike Campbell, built their first, wood framed greenhouse that held 700 flats of marigolds and petunias. Betty then went door to door securing accounts at various local businesses that sold plants. Campbell’s continued to grow, adding more buildings until finally reaching 35,000 square feet. Their dream was to have the greenhouses be their sole income. While working toward their dream, Mike also drove truck and did flat work pouring cement. Betty ran the greenhouses and raised their three children. The Eastern Market saw them come every Saturday during the season. Mike and Betty divorced in 1990 and Mike was killed in an automobile accident in 1991. Betty then moved back to the farm with the three children and continued to run the greenhouses. Then in 1995 Betty met Andy.
Each was delivering a truckload of plants to a nearby customer. Andy was unloading first. He knew who she was. Andy “just kept following her around,” he says. He talked to her there, and then came up to her farm two days later, just on a whim to visit her. Andy says “I really did not know if she was dating – I just pulled in. I was a bundle of nerves.”
They dated for two and a half years, trying to figure out the best way to merge both their families and businesses. From their respective first marriages, Andy has four children – John, Dan, Elizabeth and Gordon – Betty has three – Melanie, Melissa and Brian.
In the fall of 1997, Andy and Betty married and by summer 1998, their sons and hired help had relocated 40,000 square feet of greenhouses from Andy’s garden farm in Allenton, Michigan, to Campbell’s, and built another 22,000 square feet of new structures purchased that spring. The operation had exploded in one year from 35,000 square feet up to an extra 62,000 square feet.
Since, Campbell’s has expanded to 120,000 square feet, including an 18,000-square foot retail garden center – a seven-bay, gutter-connected structure. The new store opened in 1999 with four bays, which was already too small, the following spring another two bays were added. The next year a shade bay was added, as. Andy and Betty both said the first year of merging the two businesses was not without its challenges. But once we passed that first year, everything just smoothed out and has been wonderful.
Wearing Many Hats
Campbell’s sells 50 percent of what it produces wholesale to mom-and-pop operations throughout Michigan and as far as Indiana and Ohio. Andy is in charge of production and the wholesale. Betty is in charge of the garden center and the ordering of all garden décor.
Andy says growing his own material and wholesaling half of it is an almost perfect balance. “When we are long on something, we can try and push a little harder on it to move it wholesale, especially if there’s another planting coming on. “And yet when we start to run short on something for the store, we shut it off to wholesale and won’t offer it any longer until the next planting is ready. Most of our wholesale accounts have learned to live with that.”
Campbell’s buys herbs and nursery stock and produces the rest itself, including aquatic plants. In 2009 Campbell’s branched out to offer a select line of perennials for wholesale. Linda Nebel and Peggy Nadolski (Campbell’s head growers) work with Andy to choose varieties that will please our wholesale customer.
No “I” In Team
Andy and Betty both attribute their success over the years to their team members. With 50 plus employees in the busy season, including seven full-timers, the team is Campbell’s most valuable asset. “We are like a very large family and we all need to get along”. Training is done weekly, and lasts about an hour, on any subject ranging from care of roses to phone etiquette. At times we send our full-timers off site for a class or two. We have learned to place people where they feel they are best suited. The results are good attitude, confidence, creativity, and self-motivation. The whole farm team is much happier.
Campbell’s is passionate about their customers!
It’s clear the Malburgs and their team are passionate about their work. Campbell’s sets high standards for their product and customer service and it has paid off in the community-minded, comfortable feeling that keeps customers from miles around coming back for more. We are located in a country setting in North Branch Michigan and considered a destination by many gardeners.