Tennessee Wholesale Nursery - History & Heritage - A Legend In The Nursery Industry
There is truth in the adage that "the future is rooted in the past." In the case of Tennessee Wholesale Nursery, the reality of that phrase is evident, and the roots are pretty literal.
Today, with a gross annual business income of more than $2 million, Tennessee Wholesale Nursery has evolved from the roots of Mountain Ornamental Nursery, founded in 1931 by Roscoe Tate. Passed to his daughter in 1994, the 12-acre Tate nursery became the catalyst for today's business. As a third-generation nursery business with both a widespread retail following and a nationwide online presence, Tennessee Wholesale Nursery currently ships to all states except New York and fills more than 120,000 orders each year.
The Growth Cycle of Tennessee Wholesale Nursery LLC
Tate's daughter Tammy and her husband Dennis both originally had other careers. He worked in the logging industry, and she owned and operated a small beauty parlor. By the time their third child was born, however, Tammy Sons had begun to peddle nursery plants as a side venture, buy various plants from other growers, and resell them for a small profit. Soon after that, Dennis decided to leave logging and devote his time to the nursery business. The growth cycle had begun.
In 2004, the couple purchased a 13-acre mini-farm with barns and fields. Their young children loved the small pond on the property, and the couple recalls that those were exciting times. They also remember planting rows of nursery stock on their knees without the aid of large planting machines or sophisticated equipment. The seeds of future business success had been planted along with the nursery stock that was thriving.
Tammy typed and distributed lists of the plants and trees they planned to offer for sale. In just 19 days, they sold off the entire available inventory, making enough money to pay off their mortgage, to the dismay of friends and family.
It was around the same time that Tammy Sons began to think about selling online.
According to this enterprising pair, within a couple of years, they found a large tract of land -- 56 acres -- that also had what they described as a lovely home. They purchased it and continued to plant nursery stock, but they also broadened their focus, adding a retail dimension to the wholesale venture. In 2009, Tammy and Dennis Sons established their first eCommerce site. Soon after, they also expanded their operation to include a warehouse and packing site in town so that the "home farm" in Altamont could remain home rather than a business.
Moving Ahead In New Directions -Tennessee Wholesale Nursery
Altamont, Tenn., has a population of only slightly over 1,000. It is the county seat of Grundy county, and it is still home to the Sons family and still the epicenter of their much larger business. That has proved to be a boon to the community. Not only do other local growers provide needed nursery stock for the family-owned mail-order company, but Tennessee Wholesale Nursery employs 12 onsite workers and 19 off-sites at the warehouse and packing facility. McMinnville, Tenn., which is located only 28 miles from Altamont, is known as the nursery capital of the world, with about 300 commercial nurseries in and around the city. Now Tennessee Wholesale Nursery has access to nursery stock produced on more than 3,500 acres to help supply customer demand.
Little did Roscoe Tate envision that the nursery he founded in the 1930s would grow to be such a force for good in his area. The business specializes in native plants, trees, shrubs, mosses, wildflowers, ferns, and perennials. It has become a trusted source of living nursery stock that is well-suited for other locales and growing zones throughout the country. Both retail and wholesale customers have direct access to helpful advice, planting specifics, regional recommendations, pertinent information about the plants and their needs, nurturing tips, and a wealth of additional information from the company's websites.
The Sons family does not take success for granted with family, business, and the product line as continuing threads of this family success story. They are dedicated entrepreneurs, and continue to explore new ways to grow and expand the business, become even more relevant in their community, and serve their customers better. They understand that the groundwork for future growth and prosperity was established in the past and that what they do today will continue to impact their business well into the future.
With that in mind, Tammy and Dennis Sons have instituted several distinctive programs:
- Free Plants Twice a Year: For website owners and bloggers who have anything to do with gardening, landscaping, home improvement, or who work with a .gov or .edu organization, Tennessee Wholesale Nursery offers free plants in exchange for a small "Thank You" banner. The unique marketing program is a win-win for everyone, and comments from participants have been highly complimentary. If you're interested in becoming a banner partner, contact the company directly.
- Free Ferns: If you order from the company and leave a Google review, buyers are eligible to receive two free ferns as a thank you from Tennessee Wholesale Nursery. All that's required is that you email a screenshot of your review and your U.S. mailing address to [email protected]
- Restore, Replant and Rebuild: The company chooses not to destroy or throw away excess stock each season if it can be avoided. Instead, the owners donate, following a tradition begun in 1938, when Tammy's father offered plants free of charge to university researchers. Today, the family has expanded on that tradition and offers plants not only for study but also for environmental and sustainability projects and to meet the varied needs of non-profit organizations and gardening groups.
Tennessee Wholesale Nursery has donated to more than 400 universities, national site planning, sustainability, and garden website owners, to efforts that focus on water pollution and clean air, those that help purify and beautify the environment, and to other environmentally-oriented efforts. One day, plants donated by this innovative company may help establish the first farms on Mars, contribute to the success of organic agriculture, or help medical researchers better understand life cycles.
The "home farm" in Altamont, Tenn., now run by the third generation of dedicated family members, definitely has established strong, healthy, and far-reaching roots. It's a tradition that grew naturally in this small town.