Illinois is allowing garden centers to reopen for deliveries and curbside pickup, after initially shutting them down during the shelter-in-place order.
Casey Lartz of Casey's Garden Shop in Bloomington said it was confusing since some competitors and associated businesses were still operating.
“Why can the large stores in town be selling garden plants and yet the smaller businesses can’t sell garden plants?” Lartz asked. “Why can people like a landscaper be out planting plants and yet a garden center can’t sell plants?”
Lartz said he sought clarification because Gov. JB Pritzker’s initial order issued on March 20 allowed greenhouses, nurseries and larger retail stores to stay open, though he acknowledged those larger stores also sell essential times such as food and household supplies.
“If they have a grocery section, that’s obviously open and very needful, but do people really need to buy clothes or buy toys or buy garden plants?" he asked.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity earlier Tuesday revised its guidlines for esential businesses to allow garden centers to be open for delivery and curbside service.
The state later revised its guidelines again by requiring garden centers that are part of larger hardware or bog box stores to remain in open only for curbside and delivery service too.
Lartz said he’s grateful to be back in business because April and May are Casey's busiest months of the year, adding many garden centers rely on the the two-month period to cover their expenses for the rest of the year.
“If we are shut down April and May, that not only impacts our employees and our profitability, but it impacts all of the growers that are producing the plants for us,” said Lartz, who hopes to reopen soon after Easter. “Those people had to make their start on those plants literally months in advance.”
Lartz acknowledges moving all business online won’t be as convenient for customers, many of whom rely on the advice of staff when they come into the store.
“Most people like to wander around and look at 50 different varieties of tomato plants and decide and ask questions abut them and then pick the one that’s got the strongest stalk and then have some more questions,” Lartz said. “That’s fun and that’s what we have built our model on.”
Casey’s has been able to keep its 10 full-time employees, though the part-time staff all lost their hours. He said the store always needs additional help approaching Mother’s Day in May.
Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect the state of Illinois' clarifications regarding garden center guidelines during the shelter in place order.
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