BILLINGS — After a wild winter of planning, Jon and Karen Switzer plan to launch a new business in Billings called Roots Garden Center, that the couple said they hope to be more than just a flower shop.
“There’s a saying that, ‘the best time to plant a tree is yesterday. And the second best time is today.’ When we moved into the neighborhood, because we’re close by, and we saw the space and we were invited to participate in the idea of this vision, think we both looked at each other and we were able to go, ‘this is kind of crazy, but lets plant our roots here," Jon told MTN News in late March.
The grand opening date for Roots Garden Center is scheduled for Apr. 22 at 2147 Poly Dr. The couple plan to offer plenty of plants and all of tools to take care of them. The couple said they also hope Roots will serve as a destination, where people can buy furniture, browse and purchase local art and order cut flowers all year all while shopping with a coffee thanks to a partnership with Black Dog Coffee House.
Since the late 70s, people have known the location as a garden center, Jon said. The space has had three owners before the Switzers.
“It’s fun to now get to be in this iteration of the business in this building and we have a lot of great organizations who came before us. So, we’re looking to honor that and be that space in the community for people," Jon said.
Both of the Switzers grew up in Billings and have a history of doing work that requires a green thumb. The married couple of 16 years own Switzer Landscaping and Nursery. A business they bought from Karen's parents, Jerry and Ruth Anderberg, in 2018. The landscaping company was formerly known as Jerry Anderberg and Associates.
Jon said Jerry is sticking around in a sort of "quasi-retirement" to help with the business, lending his 40 years of horticultural and landscaping experience.
"There’s a lot to learn. There’s idiosyncrasies to plants that are native to Montana even and our soil types really have some special touches that he’s trained us in and how to manage and care for. That’s the type of plants that we sell is plants that we know will thrive and do really well in Montana," Jon said.
The couple's landscaping business stayed steady through the COVID-19 pandemic, and they had the opportunity to lease the property in January, Jon said. It also didn't hurt that house plant sales have been booming over the past months, with everyone needing a dose of nature from being cooped up inside.
“Last year, we had the opportunity to pivot because we kind of stayed somewhat steady with the landscaping. We had some challenges there for sure. Plant sales kind of went crazy and we had the opportunity here through some conversations with some friends and mutual acquaintances to pivot and step into this space and lease it beginning in January," Jon said.
But that's not to say there weren't challenges. Jon said shipping was less spread out, and what stock used to come in over four shipments was delivered in one.
"Everything from the lock down order and some of the places that we would otherwise service, we all of a sudden couldn't service. That created unique challenges for us. We had to transition. There’s a lot of what we do that is an essential service. If a yard doesn’t have adequate landscaping care and maintenance, stuff gets out of control and even things like foundational issues with water getting next to foundations can actually create some risk," Jon said.
Karen said she's a fairly risk-averse businessperson, and opening Roots was a thoughtful decision.
“We were grateful to be able to do what we did during that time. With that, we wanted to be able to extend into the community and we wanted to be able to offer people employment. But with that comes a lot of risk and a lot of expense. We really feel strongly that this is going to be a great place for Billings," Karen said.
The finishing touches are still being put on the garden center, but once complete, it will have about 18 employees, Jon said. The couple said they hope the place to be a destination in the community.
"I don't think that it's ever going to be a process where we're done creating in this space. We're going to get it to the point where we can open and we can get people in here safely and having a great experience. Then, we're just going to continue to create. People are going to find some really cool stuff throughout the year," Jon said.
The couple said they plan to have the business open in the winter months, offering cut flowers, indoor plant sales, furniture for purchase and coffee to drink from Black Dog. The plan is also to have art from local artists on display and up for purchase year-round, Jon said.
"It’s really, really cool stuff, and we’re not going to bring it out all at once either. We’re excited to, over the course of the year, feature different local artists. We’ve already had a lot of local artists stop in and visit with us. We’re excited to be able to feature their stuff here," Jon said.
The couple also hopes to offer a summer farmers market location at Roots, adding another spot for local growers to sell their goods.
“It would be really fun if we get to serve the community in the parking lot or whatever with providing some local producers with some really awesome opportunities, especially mid season in the heat of the summer to sell some great produce," Jon said.
Both of the Switzers grew up about a mile and a half from the Roots Garden Center location. With that deep community tie, the couple said it's special to now have a business close to where they grew up.
“All the way back from when my dad started this, he’s been laying roots in Billings and Yellowstone County and even actually in Stillwater (County) and Carbon County too. We just want to continue that legacy," Karen said.