Safety first as Farmington Hills garden centers open

by Beverly Church

Brad Zoner, owner of Farmer John’s Greenhouse in Farmington Hills, could have opened last weekend when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted restrictions on garden centers. But first, he wanted to make sure the store was safe for both customers and employees.

Farmers John’s
(Beverly Church)

“I wanted to make sure I had all the safeguards in place,” he said, and instead opened the store last Monday. At the entrance, customers will find rows of sanitized carts, just the first of measures taken to slow the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“When you come in the front door, there’s another sanitizing station for your hands,” Zoner said. “We’re asking customers, if they want to enter, to wear a mask. We have plexiglass at the registers. Our bathrooms are sanitized after every use. Customers and employees…have to keep the six-foot distance. It’s a big store, so people can spread out very well.”

While Farmer John’s is not offering curbside service at this time, Zoner said there hasn’t been a big demand for it. He said his garden center has so many varieties that it would be difficult to put the whole menu online.

Garden Center sanitizing
A volunteer sanitizes a porch swing at Farmer John’s Greenhouse to help keep customers safe. (Beverly Church)

“There might be 50 types of hostas (and) six different types of salmon geraniums,” he said. “We could do curbside for soil and a few basic things,” but he said most people want to come into the store.

Wait to plant

John Steinkopf of the family-owned Steinkopf Nursery in Farmington Hills also has made safety a priority.

In addition to cleaning and sanitizing, “We leave the front door (to our office) open so no one has to open the door, and we’re only allowing one or two customers in at a time,” he said. “We’re all wearing masks and gloves, and we’re asking the customers to all wear masks.”

Both greenhouses are busy stocking up on plants and flowers, but Steinkopf said customers should wait a bit to plant annuals and vegetables. If you plant them now, he said, they won’t survive.

“People sometimes see them early and think it’s okay (to plant them), but it’s not,” he said. “You have to be very careful with anything that’s tender,” and recommends waiting at least until mid-May.

Steinkopf Nursery
(Beverly Church)

Little demand for curbside

Now entering its 89th year in business, Steinkopf Nursery is offering curbside service. But Steinkopf said most people prefer to choose their plants in person.

“Unless it’s something ordinary, like soils or fertilizers, 99 percent of the people want to look at what they’re buying,” he said. “It makes you feel better to actually see the plants.”

Brad Zoner agrees, and said that after weeks of being home, customers are enjoying coming into the garden center.

“People just want to get out of the house and be around plants,” he said. “Some people may feel scared to go out, but I think they’ll relax once they come through the door. You can come in and feel safe.”

Farmer John’s, 26950 Haggerty, Farmington Hills, is open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. After May 1, hours will expand from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call 248-553-7141. Steinkopf Nursery, 20815 Farmington Road, Farmington Hills, is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 248-474-2925