Family tradition blooms in Vernon

Nicholas Alexander Home & Garden opened March 17

Nick Moffat and his wife Jamee are following in his parents’ footsteps and making up a few new moves of their own.

It started out as the perfect location to store trucks, plants and materials for their landscaping company, Nicholas Alexander Landscaping.

“Then the wheels started to turn and we thought maybe we should do the garden centre again because I grew up doing it,” said Nick Moffat, whose parents, Scott and Juanita Moffat, owned Art Knapp Plantland from 1987 to 2013.

The busy couple have three children under the age of eight, and after operating a successful landscaping business for three seasons, they decided to take the leap and return to Nick’s roots by opening a garden centre.

The Moffats approached Vernon Kia, which now owns the former Art Knapp property, and were able to lease the space and return it to its previous garden centre glory, opening Nicholas Alexander Home & Garden March 17.

“I grew up in this building. It hasn’t totally sunk in that it’s our own thing now, but it’s neat to be back in this building,” he said.

It might be the same building but they have made it their own by modernizing the decor, giving it a more industrial feel, and opening it up.

They gutted the building and then added back the elements they wanted. The glass house had a false roof that they took down, making the space brighter, and they painted some of the glass to provide shade.

“So far everyone that has come in has been raving about it so we feel like it was a good move and they are excited that we’re back,” said Nick.

The Moffats have been able to hire some of Art Knapp’s former staff, which has helped with the opening because of their experience.

Bruce Hale-Pearson, studied amenity horticulture at Bicton College of Agriculture in East Devon, U.K., worked as the nursery manager at Art Knapp from 2008 to 2013 and is now lead horticulturalist and maintenance manager for Nicholas Alexander.

“There are a lot of places that sell plants but when people come to a garden centre it’s a different experience, people are coming for quality, they’re coming for customer service and knowledgeable staff,” said Nick.

Nicholas Alexander Home & Garden offers a full range of products from gardening gloves and seeds, to shrubs, fertilizer and flower pots, making it a one-stop-shopping experience.

“Anything you need to do your gardening, we have it,” said Nick.

Nick started his career by selling hot dogs outside of Art Knapp when he was 10 years old, and that eventually progressed into carrying soil out for customers, then working in the nursery, to becoming the general manager of Art Knapp.

“I started learning about different plants. Once you work around them long enough, you develop a good understanding of what does what where and how big things get,” said Nick.

With the opening of the garden centre, the couple has found themselves working side by side.

“Working with her (Jamee) has been awesome,” says Nick with a smile. “She is honestly my backbone. She knows how I work. I kind of just go, and she does most of the back end work, like scheduling and computer work.”

The couple’s knowledge of the industry complements each other. Nick has more experience with the nursery and landscape side of things and Jamee (a realtor by trade) has more of a customer service and marketing background.

Nick’s parents are excited that they have taken to the family business even though they are now retired and no longer involved.

“They know that I’m passionate about it, I’ve loved it since I was a kid,” said Nick.

Jamee enjoys the atmosphere of working in a garden centre and has been absorbing as much knowledge as she can from Nick and the other experienced employees.

“Everyone has a great big smile on their face when they come into the garden centre. I come in and every day it’s different,” said Jamee.

“It takes a village of people to run this type of business with a ton of different pieces of knowledge to bring it together,” she said.

They pride themselves on having the right advice for any planting question.

“It’s not just a place where people can buy plants, it’s a place where people can get an honest opinion on what to plant,” said Nick.

There have been lots of hugs and encouraging words from former customers of Art Knapp as they come to support Nick and his family.

“The feedback we are getting is that it’s nice to see that we are back open,” said Jamee.

Vernon Morning Star