Eden Park was a carefully plotted start-up

Martin Riley

Martin Riley

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Riley’s Garden Centre at Eden Park won the award for New Organisation of the Year at the 2007 Isle of Man Newspapers’ Awards for Excellence.

It is hardly a surprise that it has continued to be a winner. It’s run by the Riley family, who have a track record of business success on the island going back several generations.

Riley’s Garden Centre at Eden Park did not come about because of a flash of sudden inspiration, an idea dashed off on the back of an envelope. This was a carefully plotted start-up, with the future planned and foreseen over a decade, and it serves as a template for any budding business entrepreneur.

Growing plants to sell is a tricky business. Both the production of the product and consumer spending patterns are completely seasonal and definitely weather-dependent. This is not the sort of business in which to make a quick buck, but one which requires sound knowledge and sustainability over the long term.

The family had always taken the view that it would take a number of years of investing in the business to get to where they wanted to be.

‘We always thought it was going to be an 8-10 year cycle of moving forwards,’ says Martyn Riley.

Martyn works in the business with his wife Brenda. Their daughter Hannah and son Thomas also work there - the fifth generation of Rileys to do so.

The move to Eden Park came about because the building on North Quay Douglas, where the Riley family had operated their agricultural merchant and, later, garden machinery business since 1882 was becoming less and less viable, both in terms of the layout of the building – over six floors – and because it was becoming increasingly difficult for customers to park nearby and for delivery lorries to load and unload.

Once they had made the decision to move, they made quite a radical change, acquiring a two-acre site in Braddan. The extra space meant that they could have a one-acre car park for their customers and a one-acre site for retail display, all on one level. It gave them the chance to offer a full range of garden centre products and Eden Park seemed the ideal name to sum up the new location, opening its doors in March 2005.

Importantly, a café was incorporated into the plans. It was a new direction for the Rileys but it brings regular trade to Eden Park all year round. That, along with their original core business of selling and servicing garden machinery, has helped it to come through the worst that capricious weather patterns has thrown at recent growing seasons.

Eden Park also hosts a number of events, aimed at bringing customers in, at times which are traditionally slow for garden centre trade, as Martyn explains:

‘We keep the business going through the trickier winter period by stocking a wide range of Christmas decorations and holding seasonal events such as a Christmas preview night in October with an introductory discount and refreshments.

‘After Christmas we try and keep the interest going with flower arranging classes, jewellery making and food sampling events.’

But no resting on organically-grown laurels here. The Rileys are currently engaged on a construction project to increase the size of the building and provide storage and a home for their workshop which is currently on a different site. They have also added a new covered area for plants.

‘It’s fantastic to walk around it all – we now have an extra 9,500 sq ft,’ says Martyn, adding, ‘if you stand still in business, you’re going to go backwards.’

When it came to the Awards Night in 2007, Martyn says he hadn’t even been intending to go but was persuaded to and took three members of staff with him. He couldn’t believe it when Eden Park won: ‘It was a real shock!’ he says.

And he adds: ‘It was also a really good lift for us. We had been working seven days a week to get the business started and this was a reward for all this hard work for everybody who worked in the company.’

For further information about the Awards for Excellence, and to download entry forms, visit iomtoday.co.im/afe

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