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Iconic business on sale

After 24 years of growing the business, Laurie and Carol Hatchard are putting Masterton’s GardenBarn up for sale.

On the block is the business and its related property, which has seven titles with six houses, giving a total land area of 1.9 hectares that enjoys access from three streets.

The principal retail area of GardenBarn occupies a single title of 6801m2 that includes a recently enlarged car park.

The business alone has an asking price of $1.8 million but is being sold via expressions of interest to allow flexibility of bids on the properties, which have both purchase and lease options available.

Gollins Commercial brokers Chris and Olly Gollins are the marketing agents for the combined business and residential/commercial property portfolio.

According to Chris Gollins, the business – which is one of 13 garden centres in the nationwide Garden Independent Network, and has consistently ranked as one of New Zealand’s top centres for sales, growth, and profitability – has “immediate value-add prospects”.

“Laurie and Carol are retiring, but even after nurturing this immaculately presented business for 24 years, Laurie has written an 85-page summary of how to take the business further,” Gollins said.

“It actually invigorates me just spending time at the business with him. But better still, he’s actually no longer needed. His staff are now at skill levels where they could very competently run it for new owners.”

That said, such is the Hatchards’ desire to see GardenBarn continue to thrive that a new owner seeking ongoing mentoring is likely to receive a favourable response from the couple.

For his part, Laurie Hatchard said there are a number of reasons for GardenBarn’s sustained success, including producing a great deal of their own stock and “terrific long-term staff”.

“We don’t have ‘sales’ but everyday low prices all year,” he said.

“We also make sure we always have 99 per cent of what people are looking for in stock. We update garden care and giftware ranges to meet trends but still have the staples.

“Covid was good for us – when people were locked down, they were gardening. And our ageing demographic is producing new gardeners daily.”

The loyalty of customers over the past 24 years has also been key – “We are really thankful for their business,” Hatchard said.

While GardenBarn’s customer base now extends well beyond the Wairarapa, with Wellingtonians and others from further afield regularly calling in, the business began as a literal backyard operation from the Hatchards’ home at 179 High St – hence the original name of High Street Plants.

Growing flower and vegetable seedlings in a greenhouse on their one hectare Masterton property, they sold the produce off ironing boards set up as shelves in their carport, using a barbecue table for a counter and an old drawer for a till.

“We just put a sign out on the road and business took off,” Hatchard recalled.

Initially, it was only open on weekends, operating during the week on an honesty box basis, and Laurie was the only staff member.

During the establishment phase, the couple and their daughters sold plants at the Martinborough Fair and other market days.

With the customer base quickly blossoming, Carol soon joined the business full-time, and a small retail shop was built on the property.

An initial focus was specialist lines like fuchsias, tomatoes, and passionfruit, with the profits used to expand the seedling range and branch out into shrubs and trees.

By 2004 the Hatchards were able to build a multi-purpose production shed that included potting facilities, office, staff room, and toilets, followed by a covered structure to enable all-weather shopping.

New buildings, including greenhouses, were added as required, and in 2010 the original shop was demolished to make way for the current 359m2 retail shop, by which time the business had been renamed GardenBarn.

A rare setback in February 2012 saw the original production shed burnt to the ground one hot Sunday morning. On the upside, Hatchard recalled, the blaze did mean “we got rid of a lot of junk” and the replacement shed that opened a year later was purpose built to meet the business’ ever growing needs.

Over the past 10 years that growth has continued, including the expansion of the undercover shopping area.

The couple also bought adjacent properties, which allowed them the space to grow more of their own trees and shrubs, and they joined the Garden Independent Network in 2016, which has proven “great for learning what other retailers are doing and how to run the business better”.

    Expressions of interest in GardenBarn close on November 9.

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