Rob Sproule knows a thing or two about plants. For three generations, his family built Salisbury Greenhouses and Landscaping in Sherwood Park from the ground up.
But this year, Rob and his two brothers, Adam and Dave, are embarking on a new challenge. The trio has signed a three-year lease with TEC Property Inc. to operate nearly 11,345 square metres of the Enjoy Centre’s gardening operations.
Renamed Salisbury at Enjoy, the venture’s space includes a revamped garden centre just inside the main doors and the Moonflower Room as well as the extensive, energy efficient south and north greenhouses.
When the Hole brothers sold the Enjoy Centre to TEC Property, the company took over greenhouse operations in October 2019.
“We thought we could bring something back to the Enjoy Centre that’s missing – a family-run garden centre. And I have to admit it was an opportunity for three brothers to work together. The opportunity was there and we took it. It’s the kind of garden centre we know how to run,” said Sproule, marketing director and company spokesperson.
At a quick glance, the garden centre showcases seed packets, tools, gizmos and gadgets as well as decorative wares and exotic-looking plants. The greenhouses have ramped up production of flowers and vegetables and the Moonflower room is arranged with tables slated to feature early annuals and perennials.
“We’re operating two very different garden centres with different experiences. We don’t want them to be alike. Some things will remain unique to each garden centre. We may be aligning more products in the spring of ‘22, but we also want to be careful and listen to what the customer wants. As an example, tumbler tomatoes are associated with Lois Hole, and we’ll be growing a higher percentage of tumbler tomatoes here,” said Sproule.
Thomas Pandos, property manager for TEC Property Inc., has for several decades been a family friend of the Sproules. In his capacity as Enjoy Centre manager, he facilitated a meeting between the Sproules and TEC Property.
“Salisbury Gardens has been in the business for over 50 years. They’re well known in both the gardening and landscaping world. It’s a really well-run organization. They have different products. They have a different style of business, but from their service, product and experience, they will be a benefit to the community,” said Pandos.
Now one of the Edmonton region’s premiere greenhouses and garden centres, Salisbury is a full-service centre that has developed a national reputation. Operating since 1965, it has grown from a tiny, backyard family business to a year-round operation that grows annuals, vegetables, herbs and perennials on four acres of covered greenhouse space.
“My grandmother Helen Sproule had a hobby growing bedding plants and flowers in the garage. She had more than she could use and started giving them to neighbours and then selling them. The business flourished and in 1965, my grandfather, Fred quit his job and joined the business," said Sproule.
“My dad, Bob Sproule, bought into the business in 1978. He did a lot of wholesale and brought back tropical plants from Florida. We sold them to Eatons, Woodwards and all the big department stores."
By that point, Salisbury had become a leader in delivering house plants, tropicals and exotics. In 1996, Bob's three sons, Adam, Dave and Rob, also bought into the business, applying their talents to different divisions. Throughout all this growth, many surrounding greenhouses shifted toward retail.
“But we were growers before being retailers. That’s why we have such a close affinity with Hole's. They’ve always been plants-first as well. We really looked up to Hole's. They were the retailer we wanted to be.”
In the past 10 years, Sproule has witnessed a huge resurgence as younger audiences such as millennials are shopping at greenhouses.
“You think it’s primarily Boomers, but it's grown. Young people are getting into gardening, but for different reasons. They’re into planting for wellness. There is dignity, empowerment and a sense of control you get from gardening, and many need it for their mental health.”
He adds the pandemic has affected health in numerous ways and in some cases reset priorities.
“Lately, people love gardening. We’ve had a major shock to the system. The first thing people want to do when that happens is grow their own food. The last time was 9/11. It shifted the paradigm of gardening from being an aesthetic to growing our own food.”
Sproule added everyone at Salisbury is aware how unique and special the Enjoy Centre is.
“There is nothing like this anywhere. We’re very open-door people. We want Salisbury at Enjoy for community groups. It’s very important to integrate into the community.”
As an example, nine years ago he kickstarted school garden programs across Sherwood Park and Strathcona County. To date, 21 schools in the area have planted a garden.
“We really want this to be a place families can bring their children.”