As appeared in SeacoastOnline.com on May 1, 2012
Business is blooming at The Pick of the Planet, a specialty grower formerly based in Eliot, Maine.
The Pick of the Planet recently opened its new wholesale and retail garden center at the former Garden of Eves site at 192 Breakfast Hill Road.
"I could not have imagined another location that fit our needs so ideally," said Ellen Mitchell, owner of The Pick of the Planet. "The old barn structure is filled with character and reflects our philosophy of repurposing to a 'T.' Many locals have fond memories of buying plants here."
Mitchell said she has updated two of the three large greenhouses, which are already brimming with locally grown spring and summer ornamentals, herbs, vegetables and flowering hanging baskets.
Mitchell began her wholesale business as a grower of exotic plants more than a decade ago. The Pick of the Planet became a key supplier to Seacoast landscaping companies, and it grew over the years into a robust small-business success story. However, Mitchell said the Eliot location did not offer an opportunity to serve the public directly, and a variety of circumstances challenged her efforts to expand services and her customer base.
Mitchell said she turned to SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground and supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
"I wanted some professional input and had a great experience with SBA when I first started my business in 1999," she said.
Mitchell worked with Seacoast SCORE Chapter 185 counselors Martin Klenke and Mike Hurt, who met with her in 10 confidential sessions. She also took advantage of SCORE workshops in financial accounting and Internet marketing to learn more about growth options for her company.
"As I worked with this team, it became clear that we would have to move if we wanted to grow," Mitchell said. "I began to explore different towns in the Seacoast, and one of the ideas we developed was to seek out former greenhouse sites as a way of streamlining our relocation and conserving capital on construction costs."
The Garden of Eves site turned out to be the solution to Mitchell's challenge. It offered the space and buildings to support her wholesale operation and a central, attractive location for her new retail greenhouse and independent garden center.
Mitchell has lived and gardened on the Seacoast for more than 35 years.
"The Pick of the Planet gives me an outlet for sharing my deep passion and inspiration for fine horticulture, good food, medicinal herbs, beekeeping and healthy living," she said.