PHONE: 627-4521

DATE: 06-24-03


Rux Gardens Focuses on Customer Service

When Greg and Trish Rux stopped in Waynesville for gas on a visit to Western North Carolina, they not only filled up with gas, but also found a new home. They immediately fell in love with the mountains and the mild climate. For the past 8 years, the couple owned a perennial nursery in Minnesota and was looking for a new location to start a nursery business. Hoping to escape the frigid Minnesota winters and to cash in on the extended growing period in this area, the two entrepreneurs moved to Waynesville and started looking for a place with "flat land" to make their dream a reality.

They also turned to Haywood Community College’s Small Business Center for advice. Sharron Bleyl, Small Business Center Director, consulted with the Ruxes on how to prepare a business plan and also suggested they attend several of the free seminars offered by the Center. The Center provides budding entrepreneurs like the Ruxes with the knowledge and resources needed to make informed decisions concerning their business ventures. A resource library of print, audio, and video materials is also available for loan. The Small Business Center is located at the Regional High Technology Center.

According to Trish and Greg, a seminar on financing prepared them to present their case to the lender. "We were prepared for the questions they asked. The whole process was less stressful since we knew what to expect," Trish said, "Sharron gave us a resource booklet that explained everything step by step. We felt much more comfortable knowing she was there—ready to help if we encountered a problem."

The couple also attended a seminar on business image where they learned about branding. "It really got our wheels turning. We came up with a new name and a new logo," the Ruxes said.

In March 2003, they opened Rux Gardens on the Old Balsam Road in Waynesville. Greg has worked in nursery related businesses for over 20 years while Trish is a former nurse. The two now enjoy being their own bosses and working together as they learn about the mountains and new plants indigenous to this area.

"This spring was a learning experience. Several North Carolina plants are new to us and people also call plants by different names than we have used in the past. We are keeping a list of everything people request that we don’t have. We hope to add those plants and items to our inventory soon," Trish said. "We like offering new and unique plants to our customers."

The Ruxes focus their business philosophy on quality customer service. "We want our customers to become successful gardeners. We don’t sell plants that aren’t hardy for our climate zone," Greg said. The Ruxes worry about what happens when a customer takes a plant home, so they use a special potting soil that is closer to the type of soil the plants will be planted in at home. It is not as big a shock to the plants’ systems and therefore the plants don’t wilt when they are transplanted. The plants have an easier time acclimating to the new location. "It is harder for us, but it’s worth the extra work to have happy customers." Greg said. The extra care must be working—they say that they have had customers who return weekly.

Rux Gardens has 7 greenhouses filled with an array of annuals, perennials, hanging baskets and herbs. The store also sells hard goods such as planters, garden sculpture, and gardening supplies.

In one greenhouse, a visitor will find more than 200 varieties of hostas. A hosta is a shade-loving perennial that comes in thousands of varieties. Greg arrived in Waynesville with his dream and 20 of his prized hostas. He hopes that by the end of this growing season to have built his collection to over 300 varieties.

Trish Rux will be the first to tell you that her husband, Greg, is "the man" when it comes to hostas. She refers to him as a hosta king. Greg has grown hostas for over 15 years and has turned his passion for the plants into a mail order business. According to Greg, many people collect hostas —he ships plants all over the United States. He also attends about four hosta conventions a year to promote his business and to expand his own collection of hostas.

"We direct mail catalogs for our hostas, so the HCC small business seminar on mail piece design was extremely helpful," Trish said. "It taught us how to save money and be more efficient in designing direct mail pieces and mailing our packages."

Trish and Greg say that the free seminars have been a great networking tool for them as they have met other small business owners in the area. They have even formed partnerships with some of them such as the owner of The Berry Patch, a gift shop in Waynesville. " We put flowers in front of his store with a Rux Gardens’ sign. The arrangement is beneficial to both of us. He gets colorful flowers to enhance his store and we get free advertising and exposure for our nursery."

Through the HCC Small Business Center, the Ruxes also formed a relationship with HCC’s horticulture program. They currently employ three HCC horticulture students on a part-time basis. "The college has been a resource for identifying potential employees. We have been very pleased with the students— they are hard workers and very knowledgeable," they said. In fact, Trish and Greg have been so impressed with the college program that they are sponsoring three HCC horticulture scholarships.

Rux Gardens is off to a great start and Trish and Greg are already looking toward the future. They hope to update the look of the outside yard and eventually to have a display garden. Also, they want to offer classes in butterfly gardening and to plan an event around the hostas.

Rux Gardens, located at 2930 Old Balsam Road, is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and on Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. You can also visit them at www.ruxgardens.com on the Internet.

For more information about Haywood Community College’s Small Business Center, contact Sharron Bleyl at (828) 627-4512.

Photo attached: Trish and Greg Rux stand among their many prized hostas. The Ruxes are owners of Rux Gardens located on the Old Balsam Road in Waynesville.