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'It's gone so quickly.' Couple celebrates 20 years at garden centre

By Essex Chronicle  |  Posted: May 25, 2013

  • Owners James and Kate Richmond

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A DEDICATED husband and wife team – who communicate to one another at work via walkie-talkies – are celebrating their garden centre's 20th birthday.

James and Kate Richmond boasted just £1,000 between them when they married 25 years ago.

Yet with her passion for growing and his financial know-how, the two set up what is now Highwood's Greenbrook Garden Centre.

"It doesn't feel like we've been here five years, let alone 20 – it's gone very quickly," admitted keen cyclist and music-lover James.

Kate said: "When we first started I never thought we would become as big as we are now. We've grown at least ten times as big."

'Big' is an understatement, as the duo and their staff must communicate via a radio network because the five-acre site is so extensive.

Kate, a mother-of-two, said: "Because this is such a big site we don't always see each other. In fact, we can go an entire morning without seeing each other.

"But when we do work together, side by side, we don't really have a chance to be husband and wife, whereas we can be husband and wife at home."

The couple attribute their success, to buying-in high-quality products from as far as Holland, Spain and Italy, and then selling at affordable prices to scores of loyal customers and others who come from further afield for their gardening items.

And not just those who come in for instalments of compost – the couple say they get visits from "the suits" towards the end of the day too.

"Towards the end of the day we get the suits who come around to wander and simply to unwind. You know them and you don't approach them – you just let them have their time to themselves.

"You know they don't want any help and just want to walk around and unwind after a stressful day," said art enthusiast Kate.

Through the mazy routes of the centre, the team boast entire sections devoted to pots, sheds and more exotic products.

Kate says she is particularly proud of their Senetti plants from Holland, which exploded on to the market five years ago. They also currently boast a deal on hanging baskets at £9.99 and a three-for-£12 on 70-litre multi-purpose compost bags.

Now looking towards their 21st year, after their landmark earlier this month, the two are hoping for a sunny summer.

"The weather is our biggest driving force," said James.

Among the employees are 53-year-old Heather Cooley, who has been with them more than seven years, Jackie Hoskins, 12 years, and loyal Warren Bond, who has stuck with them for 17 years.

Highwood customer Mary Murrell said: "Nothing dies here unless I do something wrong, and it's because of the quality of the plants I buy here for sure."

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