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Garden center controversy: Should they be open?

Debate over whether they are essential
Posted at 2:01 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 19:42:15-04

With most stores besides grocery, pharmacy and hardware stores shut down, one type of store that remains open is in the center of a controversy.

It's garden centers, from small, family-owned stores to big box centers, which in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and most states can continue to operate as normal. But should they be open?

Benken Florist and Garden in Cincinnati's Silverton neighborhood is one such center.

At this 80-year-old family business, shopping is limited to pre-orders only, and a drive-through lane where employees bring plants and mulch to your car.

It's a far cry from the crowded scenes at Home Depot and Lowe's this past weekend, that were publicly shamed on social media for allowing hundreds of customers to pack stores.

General manager Tim Clark says drive-up keeps the lights on.

"They are able to go online and order or call our phone number, and we will load up their order," he said.

However, his sales are down sharply these days before Easter weekend.

"Churches that normally get loads of beautiful Easter flowers have reduced their orders," he said, "or canceled altogether."

Debate over "essential"

In response to the crowding at Home Depot and Lowe's, several cities and even the state of Vermont have ordered garden centers to close.

But Clark feels that is short-sighted, as he insists that during a time of crisis, there is almost nothing as essential as being able to plant your own vegetable garden.

"Every time there is some sort of national emergency, or people feel insecure, one of their first reactions is to grow their own food," he said, referencing the Victory Gardens of World War II.

"They want to make sure they can take care of themselves and their families with food in a crisis," he said.

Already, tomatoes, cauliflower, collard greens and more have been flying off the shelves at Benken, especially since online vendors such as Burpee are sold out of many popular vegetables.

Customers like Kristin Barnes appreciate Benken's safe way to shop, and said she doesn't understand the controversy.

"There's no contact, you pay online. You pick up and they put it in your trunk; you're not close to the people at all," she said.

While Hamilton County's Health Commissioner is publicly discouraging garden center shopping, saying there's no need to stock up on mulch right now, Ohio governor Mike DeWine has officially OK'd garden centers to remain during the month of April.

If you decide to shop, stay safe, keep your distance, and don't waste your money.

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Don't Waste Your Money

8:47 PM, Oct 17, 2018

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