When I was in Minneapolis, I stopped in at Bachman's, a sort of destination garden center loved by the locals. But these Minnesota people are too modest. No one had really been able to convey to me the sheer scale of their Lyndale Avenue store. Really, I don't think there's anything like it anywhere in the country. 230,000 square feet of retail space? You tell me.
I know what you’re thinking: big, pretty garden center, maybe a little coffee shop, nice gift store—big deal. Seen it.
Oh, how wrong you would be. Bachman’s is like the Macy’s of garden centers. And not, like, the small-town Macy’s you sometimes visit when you go to see your mom. No, Bachman’s is truly the glittery, big city, luxurious and over-the-top fancy shopping extravaganza of the plant world. We’re talking the downtown Seattle Nordstrom’s. The Union Square Macy’s. The Saks that is actually on Fifth Avenue. Only they sell plants instead of shoes.
Some of you have already stopped reading and booked your tickets. I know. It’s too much to contemplate. You could actually shop all day long—all day!—and never see a single dazzling trinket that is not somehow related to gardening.
The gift department alone is worth a few hours. Jewelry. China. Fancy vases. Scarves. Fountains. Pots. I don’t even know how to convey the fabulousness of the gift department to you. Words fail me.
Then there’s a huge flower shop—Bachman’s is a full-service florist with locations all over town and cheery purple vans that deliver the flowers—and a full-sized card shop. I got to take a behind-the-scenes tour of their floral department, and seriously, it’s bigger than most wholesale markets I’ve seen. If you go, try to score a tour. It will blow your mind.
Oh, and the plants. One greenhouse after another full of cheerful blooming annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables, houseplants, gift plants, trees, shrubs—really, every time I turned a corner, I’d see another sales floor larger than most ordinary garden centers, all devoted to yet another category of plant.
The hard goods department—that’s garden center speak for tools, seeds, fertilizers, and so forth—was as large as most grocery stores, with just as many cash registers open. They had everything. Every. Thing.
And then there’s the café. Bachman’s put in a fancy little bakery and a lovely deli that does high-end sandwiches and salads, and you take your food and sit in an extraordinarily elegant and oversized version of a greenhouse, with the glass roof high above you, and plants and deliciously tempting merchandise stretching on for acres around you, and some kind of elegant jazz floating through the air, or maybe that was just in my head. It was lovely in the spring, but can you imagine how rejuvenating it would be in the middle of a long, frozen winter? Bachman’s stays open until nine every night in summer, and until eight the rest of the year. I’d be there every night until close. If they would only put in a bar I bet they could keep the place hopping until midnight.
The only word of warning I have for you plant geeks who are planning on making the trip is that this is not the place to find obscure, hard-to-find, unusual plants. The plant selection is all cheerful and familiar and, for the most part, heavily branded–Monrovia, Endless Summer, and so on. I'm sure that if I lived in Minneapolis I'd go elsewhere for weird and surprising plants, but I'd hang out here for the sheer fun of it.
I had hoped that this little video would help convey the enormity of the place, but I really think you have to see it for yourself. Sorry I couldn't come up with anything better for you. Just know that every shot is taken from an entirely different part of their vast, sprawling, retail horticultural empire.Posted by Garden Rant on June 5, 2009 at 10:46 am, in the category Taking Your Gardening Dollar.