Husband-and-wife teams on what it takes to run a garden center

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Wife-and-husband team Alice Longfellow and Bob Call took lessons from the businessess their parents established but built their own garden center from the ground up.

By Michelle Simakis 

Editor’s note: Though family-owned companies are not unusual, working with loved ones presents different challenges as well as advantages. We spoke with Call and Longfellow, and two other husband-and-wife teams who own garden centers, to find out what it’s like working together as spouses in this industry.

Alice Longfellow always knew she wanted to follow in her family’s footsteps by working in the industry she grew up in. But unlike many second-generation garden center owners who take the reins from their parents and work alongside their siblings, she wanted to run her own company separate from the one her father and mother started.

“My brother Scott is the one who owns the family business now. He is four years older, so it was logical. He was ready to move into that position before I was,” Longfellow says, adding that their four other siblings do not work in the industry. “My parents knew Scott was going to take over, so as a result, they were very supportive of me [owning my own business].”

Longfellow and her brother don’t compete, and they’ll swap ideas and even share numbers because the company her parents founded, Longfellow’s Greenhouses, in Manchester, Maine, is a 24-hour drive from the one she operates, Longfellow’s Garden Center, in Centertown, Mo.

“My brother and I are really best friends, and will help each other in any way we can,” Longfellow says.

What Longfellow didn’t plan on was falling in love with a man who also grew up in the horticulture industry.