North Creek Gardens strives for top-notch quality, reasonable price point, customer service
Updated: Jan 29
It wasn’t like Arjan and Dianne Roelofsen purchased North Creek Gardens by accident.
But while interested, they didn’t think it financially feasible after Arjan came across the opportunity while ‘snooping around’ on an MLS website.
“We’re never going to buy it,” he recalls thinking. “But let’s just go look for fun.”
Ten extremely busy months later, ‘fun’ might not be exactly the word to describe the experience of purchasing and running a business quite literally rooted in their lives, but it has certainly been ‘rewarding’ amongst all its inherent challenges.
Arjan grew up in Holland, where his parents owned and operated their own nursery. Emigrating to the Burgessville area at the age of 13, he assisted on the family farm with both hogs and cuttings and nursery stock, mostly field-grown cedar and boxwoods.
“Growing things is in our blood.”
Roelofsen added co-op experience at a nursery to working at home, formalizing his education with a horticultural technician course offered through Fanshawe College.
“I learned the basics about plants and landscaping.”
His work balanced between a local nursery and home skewed toward the latter, to the point he was full-time upon his 2016 marriage to Dianne, five years after the couple met and began dating. She took office administration at school and was working as a bookkeeper at a local tractor dealership.
By 2021, the couple was considering its long-term options when the opportunity arose to purchase Northview Greenhouses, just under five kilometres south-east of Delhi along Highway #3, an existing business which had been closed through 2021. The five-acre property featured roughly two-and-a-half acres of greenhouse and retail space along with a family home. Higher property costs and the impact COVID-19 was having and could still have on the economy were admittedly of concern, but intrigued by possibility the couple decided to move forward, capitalizing a 25-acre farm property near Tillsonburg, toward the purchase.
“You can always think of an excuse to not do it, I think,” said Arjan. “The risk is higher, but the potential is there.”
Renaming the business is a thing ‘easier said than done,’ he admitted. However they arrived on its current North Creek Gardens which incorporates an element of its former name, along with the fact Dianne discovered Delhi does feature a North Creek.
“To us it made sense,” she said.
The purchase finalized last fall prior to a November 31st, 2021 moving date, and with moving boxes still packed in their new house, and family support ranging from childcare for their three young daughters (one, three and five), to assisting with Christmas arrangements, they opened with poinsettia and related sales on December 3rd.
“It was pretty crazy, but good,” Dianne recalled.
“So there were a couple of hectic days,” added Arjan with a smile. “Our family helped us a lot last year - still gotta get the bills from everyone.”
The balance of the winter and early spring was spent in settling into a new home while preparing for their upcoming April 28th, 2022 opening. It was a time of investment without return against the backdrop of the delicate balance of estimating how much product to produce.
“You can grow whatever you want, but you have to sell it too,” Arjan summed up.
North Creek Gardens offers shrubs, trees and perennials, annuals (one-year flowers) grown from liners and bulk mulch. They also grew plants for a larger, wholesale retail outlet in the property’s two acres of greenhouse space. As mentioned, there was an air of uncertainty through the winter, spending money to produce product without established criteria on who is going to show up.
However, the couple was pleased with the response and are happy with the support of the community through their first season, extremely busy early on and into June, while maintaining a steady level of customers throughout July and August.
“Mother’s Day to May 24, that’s the big push,” said Arjan, a time period when the business employed two high school students on weekends. Dianne has taken over marketing, an effort including building back up an associated Facebook page which currently has 5,000 followers, newspaper and radio advertising, and giveaways.
Arjan believes there is less industry competition than existed ten years ago, due to the fact a number of greenhouses have been converted to cannabis production. There are other nurseries in the area, including two in Simcoe and one in Tillsonburg.
“But it’s not like we’re next door to each other.”
North Creek Gardens strives to earn its business through top-notch quality, a good price point, “plus friendly, customer service,” says Dianne.
Typically, while she operates the till, Arjan will carry purchases to individuals’ vehicles.
“You don’t get that at a box store.”
It certainly was a big decision for the family, but one they have both found productive. Dianne in particular enjoys the customer service aspect, chatting, and also increasing her horticultural knowledge through new plants and varieties.
“And I like having quality plants to give to customers. I love hearing ‘The flowers are very beautiful,’ that’s very rewarding.”
Arjan enjoys being home and seeing their daughters every day, rather than having to work off-farm, along with learning about new varieties.
“And obviously, the challenge of seeing if we can make this business grow.”
Ten months in, their vision is on the right track, ‘satisfying the banker’ as Arjan puts it.
“And like every farmer, next year should be better, right?” he added with a smile. “So far, so good - we’ll see what the future brings.”