By KEVIN WALKER
WHITE LAKE, Mich. — In a time of cutthroat competition and an ever-changing economy, it’s promising to hear about a business that has stuck it out and made the grade over decades.
Such can be said of Bogie Lake Greenhouses, a retail and wholesale operation based in White Lake, about 30 miles northwest of Detroit. Mark Watkins, owner of the business with his wife, Patty, bought it from Thompson’s Greenhouses in 1987. Thompson’s had been in business since the 1930s, he said.
The business property consists of 2.5 acres of greenhouses on 10 acres of land. In an interview last week Mark Watkins said business has been getting better “little by little. After 9/11, sales went down, but not a lot. Things have been going up little by little” since then.
“I grow most of my own things,” he said. “I enjoy it. Farmers work; that’s what farmers do. It’s still a tough business. I’m 65 percent retail, 35 percent wholesale. In retail you get a better markup, but I can sell wholesale things that I wouldn’t be able to sell retail.”
That diversification has helped him. Currently Watkins has items for sale for “fairy gardens.”
He has a difficult time describing exactly what a fairy garden is; according to one description, a fairy garden is a miniature landscape that creates the illusion that tiny creatures are living there. It is scaled down and imaginative.
Items appropriate for fairy gardens include mosses, poinsettias, sedums, Scotch moss and English baby tears.
Watkins sells Christmas greens, including wreaths, but no Christmas trees. He said the Christmas season is probably only 7-8 percent of his annual sales; however, the Michigan Floriculture Growers Council would like to make winter a bigger thing for greenhouses and others who sell plants.
“We’re doing our ‘Real Michigan Christmas’ campaign this year to see what happens,” said Jim Tuinier, president of the Council and owner of Post Gardens of Battle Creek, last month.
In a recent announcement the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) put the focus on both Christmas trees and poinsettias.
“Michigan ranks third nationally in Christmas tree production and seventh in the U.S. in poinsettia production,” said Jamie Clover Adams, MDARD director.
According to MDARD, Michigan Christmas trees have an annual value of $40 million and three million of them are harvested in a year. Michigan poinsettia growers produced 2.3 million plants this holiday season.
“The nice thing about any plant in your house is you can mulch in a plant rather than put it in your landfill,” Tuinier said. “They also humidify your house.”
He said poinsettias were originally from Mexico and they used to look much different than they do today. “With breeding we’ve gotten the flower to look better,” he said.
In addition to the red blooms, poinsettias can also be pink, white or spotted. Tuinier said people also paint poinsettias for the holidays. This gives them a “modeled” look, he explained.
For anyone in southeastern lower Michigan interested in buying a plant any time of year, Bogie Lake Greenhouses is located at 1525 Bogie Lake Rd, White Lake, MI 48383-2727. The phone number is 248-887-5101, or go online to www.bogielakegreenhous