HARWOOD, N.D. - Adam Volz has worked at Sheyenne Gardens almost continuously since 2000, but it’s just been the last year that he's moved from being a manager to being the boss.
Volz bought the local nursery in 2020 from the estate of Neal Holland, the gardening guru that turned Sheyenne Gardens into a must stop for collectors and those who simply want good quality annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees.
Pandemic or no, Volz, who has deep roots in the industry, knows the nursery at 17010 29th St. S.E. has a perennially successful business model.
After putting a customer’s purchase in her car, Volz walked back from the parking lot Thursday, May 13, with his “shadow,” a sweet-tempered springer spaniel named Bella, who is always ready to lean into a good backscratch.
Grabbing a cup of coffee, Volz talked about why he chose to make Sheyenne Gardens his own,
“This is a good industry. Even in a recession, people buy plants. Good times or bad times, people keep buying plants. They make us happy,” he said.
Volz said the nursery has a great location, butted up against the Sheyenne River. Of the 17 acres he owns, seven are wooded. Among the trees, it doesn’t seem like the flat prairie of the Red River Valley.
- Elle Michelle vintage jewelry boutique opens on downtown Fargo's south side
He liked that the business was focused on being a plant nursery, leaving landscaping to customers and professional installers.
“(Landscaping is) not what I am passionate about,” Volz said. “Neal really focused on having variety. Lots and lots of different varieties and different plants. I like that.”
Between 2000 and 2020, Volz spent about 18 months away from Sheyenne Gardens checking out other nurseries in Minnesota as possible business opportunities.
“I was planning on taking Neal’s business model of lots of variety along with me. I thought it was a smart business model for a bigger community,” he said.
Sheyenne Gardens gets some of its business from the Fargo-Moorhead area, “but we’ve got Casselton, Arthur, and Argusville and Hunter, the rural communities really support us. And since we focus on a lot of different varieties, I get people from all over. … The collectors will find you. So we draw from a large area,” Volz said.
Holland, who died in 2019 at the age of 89, started Sheyenne Gardens in 1988 on his home farm in Harwood..
Holland taught horticulture at North Dakota State University for 32 years, at the same time breeding and developing strains of broccoli, squash and tomatoes. He kept it up in retirement, creating a “fairytale” series of lilacs.
Volz started at Sheyenne Gardens as an intern in 2000. After he graduated from the University of Minnesota Crookston with a horticultural plant sciences degree, Holland hired him full time.
When Volz decided he was ready to own his own nursery, he worked with Roger Larson, a mentor at the Service Corps Of Retired Executives, and he contacted the North Dakota Small Business Development Center. They helped him create and test his business plan and evaluate businesses for profitability
“Those are great resources. And if anyone wants to run a business, they need to use those resources,” Volz said.
The professionals gave him “another set of eyes” to be sure the businesses he was evaluating in had acceptable cash flows, and to help him sharpen his business plan.
“It all comes down to numbers at the end, when you’re going to the bank to get the loan,” Volz said. “You look at profit. At the end it’s a business, it has to make a profit where the owner gets a wage. This is not my hobby.”
Larson said working with Volz has been one of his favorite SCORE projects.
“His 20 years of experience and going with one of the best mentors (Neal Holland) in the area,” were big pluses, Larson said. “He just knows so many of the people here. It would have been a shame if he didn’t buy it.”
Volz replaced one greenhouse last year. He has plans to repair another greenhouse, and may put up another greenhouse this fall, giving him needed space to grow more plants.
Most of his business occurs between April 15 and Nov. 15, and so far this spring, sales have been good, he said. He’s mulling ways in which he can expand his sales through the year.
His tips for gardeners this spring?
“Watch the weather. There’s still plenty of time to plant. Plant something new. Plant something fun,” Volz said. “Try different things. If you have never done it before, try it. How do you know if you don’t like a new plant if you haven’t tried it, or a new flower? You have to keep trying things.”