Family nursery grows deep roots in community

Betty Dillard Folks around Fort Worth have been diggin’ Archie’s Gardenland for eight decades now. “We’ve got the third generation of customers, which is very interesting,” said Rick Archie, co-owner of the family business located just off the bricks of Camp Bowie Boulevard on the city’s west side. “People come in and tell us their trees were planted back when my grandfather was here. It’s pretty cool.” Neal E. “N.E.” Archie Sr., Rick’s late grandfather, founded the company in 1934 as a business focusing on landscaping. It was one of the few North Texas nurseries specializing in the planting and maintenance of large trees.

After a few years, the late N.E. Archie Jr. joined his father in the business, which they moved to a building on Camp Bowie and named Archie’s Planter Box. “Big trees were his strength and expertise,” Rick Archie said of his grandfather. “With my dad, the business transformed into sprinkler systems and landscaping. We were the oldest sprinkler system company in Fort Worth. That was back when that used to be all copper. The crews used to camp out on the job site, on people’s yards. There are some great stories about that.” It was renamed Archie’s Gardenland in 1952 when N.E. Sr. and Jr. moved the business to its current and larger location on Z Boaz Place in what was then a cow pasture. Today Archie’s has evolved into a full-scale retail company that still plants and maintains almost any size tree. Now run by Rick Archie and his son, 30-year-old, fourth-generation manager Randall Archie, the garden center still operates under the founders’ guiding principles of providing quality service and products.

“It hasn’t totally sunk in for me that we’ve been here 80 years until we started celebrating,” Randall said. “It’s a lot of pressure on me to keep it going but it’s a good pressure.” About two years ago Archie’s retired its landscaping services, Randall said. The garden center grows almost 1 million plants a year, all acclimated to North Texas soil and weather conditions, in 14 greenhouses on its five-acre site. Among Archie’s top-sellers are vegetables, herbs, roses and fruit trees, all popular with today’s gardeners. Although the company will still install any plant it sells, the customer is now the sole stakeholder, responsible for all the landscaping decisions. “They bring in a photo or a sketch of the landscape and we’ll walk through landscapes here on site,” Randall said. “What used to take three weeks and thousands of dollars for just a design we can now do in 45 minutes. We can easily show them all the plant options available and they can pick out what they like. It simplifies the process. Putting the homeowner in charge of learning about a plant, finding out where something will grow and how much water is needed gives a better success rate. It’s a big change for us.” There have been a lot of changes at Archie’s Gardenland over the years. Rick Archie remembers when his grandfather and father offered curb service. Chauffeurs would drive up with the customer in the back seat and honk. The customer would roll down the window and place an order. The chauffeur would then load plants in the trunk of the car and drive away.

“Today, very few of the younger generation come in with plant samples or bug samples in a plastic bag,” Rick said. “They come in with photos on their iPhone. You can’t turn the leaf over and look for bugs. You can’t really analyze from a picture but it’s pretty neat that they bring in pictures like that to ask us to help fix their landscaping needs. “A good business in today’s society has got to adapt to change easily,” he continued. “Our niche is that we can change. Our niche is offering a selection of plants we’ve carefully grown – that and being a family-owned business. We’re very lucky that we’ve found our place in the garden industry in Fort Worth, and to have Randall be the next generation to take over.”

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Planting seeds for the future Rick Archie and his sister, Vicki Archie Dossey, who co-owns the business with him, attribute the company’s longstanding success to both its customers and employees. Archie’s employs almost 40 full-time staffers, including an arborist. The staff includes Rick’s wife, Rosie, and Randall’s wife, Gina. Employee turnover remains low, Dossey said. “We’ve been very blessed to have great employees over the years. It’s really a family business. Many of our employees have been here for years and they feel like they’re family,” Rick said. “Our great employees have resulted in loyal customers who have helped keep us in business. Loyal customers – that’s your core strength. That says something about us, I think.” Robyne McMurray, a longtime customer of Archie’s Gardenland, calls the nursery the “best, happiest, most well-kept plant store” she’s ever patronized.

“Just being at Archie’s makes me happy inside. Even just driving by makes me smile,” she said. To keep customers coming back generation after generation and to stay ahead of the competition, Randall Archie engages the company in up-to-date technology, which also keeps the business growing. He regularly posts videos and blogs on the company’s social media sites and writes an e-newsletter. “We have a very strong social media campaign,” Randall said. “We average 37 to 42 percent open rates on our newsletter. It’s fairly extreme for garden centers but we’ve been very successful with it.” Archie’s also offers workshops and special events for kids and families. Workshop topics educate homeowners and business owners on everything from mosquito control and proper watering to rainwater collection and drought-tolerant plants for the landscape. Fairy garden workshops are popular with kids and adults alike, Randall said. The garden center hosted a Halloween Fairy Garden event in which 74 miniscule gardens were made. “Our plans are always growing and evolving. My dad is always thinking of fun ideas to make this place better and it’s caught on with me,” he said. “I try to make it fun and up to date. It’s one advantage of being a smaller, off-the-beaten-path garden center. Our plan for the future is to keep helping the community and to offer more of an in-house education.” Archie’s Gardenland has long given back to the community.

Archie’s recently partnered with Tarrant Area Food Bank to transform what was a vacant lot at Ridglea Christian Church into a demonstration garden and training center. Archie’s Gardenland provided materials, labor and expertise to the project. With the Learning Garden, the food bank’s staff and volunteers can demonstrate effective gardening methods for the Texas climate and teach families and communities how to grow fresh fruits and vegetables to feed the hungry. “Archie’s is an outstanding example of how a family-run business can contribute to the community in meaningful and sustainable ways. We look forward to a long and productive relationship,” said Bennett Cepak, Tarrant Area Food Bank associate executive director. Rick Archie, who is also a licensed architect, is already training the next generation in the family business. Randall’s children, Olivia, 10, and Henry, 6, are regular workers in the shop and in the greenhouses. “They have time cards but it’s a joke,” their grandfather said. One of Rick’s duties every day is to teach Olivia and Henry a new plant. “They don’t know it really but it’s imprinting on them,” he said. “I grew up learning the business the same way. It was fun. You didn’t know any better. You’re learning stuff whether you know it or not. It’s in your blood