Every year, a couple of weeks before Mother’s Day, the parking lot at Olde Towne Ace Hardware in Jonesborough, Tennessee, takes on a dramatic transformation. Owners David and Vickie Sell fill the lot with a sea of roses in their Run for the Roses promotional sales event. This past spring, over the course of about six weeks, the couple sold more than 900 roses, and they plan on increasing the numbers next year.
The tradition started in 2001 and has drawn customers from more than 50 miles away. The Sells stock 50 different varieties of roses, making their store a destination for rose lovers looking for unique plants as gifts or as a way to start their spring gardens.
It’s also a labor of love for the Sells. In February, they start each rose bush from a bare root, or starter plants that have not yet matured into a blossom, in an off-site greenhouse. Sell says it took him about two and a half days to plant all 900 flowers. He and his wife plant each rose in their own proprietary blend of potting soil and then hand-water them every day. When the roses mature into a blossom, generally a couple of weeks before Mother’s Day, they start bringing them to the store and set them up in the parking lot.
“When we first started selling the roses, we got maybe 400 or 500,” says David. “We’ve increased the numbers every year because of the response we continued to get from our customers. My wife came up with the ‘Run for the Roses’ name because we start selling close to the time of the Kentucky Derby, and around Mother’s Day.”
The labor of love pays off, too, making it a profitable way to start off the spring sales. “This has become a niche we are known for, and has been a good investment for the store,” David says. Customers purchasing a rose typically purchase potting soil, pots, trellises and other add-on items.
Like any successful spring event, the Run for the Roses promotion takes advance planning, which starts mid-summer. Vickie will choose the quantity and variety of roses to be ordered, and then they will pre-order bagged soils and pots. Then, in January, they start getting the greenhouse ready for the plants to arrive in February.
With any event such as this one, it’s important to start planning well in advance. You’ll need to think about setting up and hosting such an event, what products you’ll need, how you’ll advertise it and more. To download our event planning guide, visit TheRedT.com/EventChecklist.