Final sale signals end of Dale's Greenhouse

Owner says garden center's success a 'dream come true'
Apr. 22, 2013 @ 05:32 PM

After 35 years in business, including a quarter century at his current location, Dale McKinney said the time is right to shut the doors of Dale's Greenhouse and Garden Center.

The 51-year-old McKinney began his business in high school with the help of a program that allowed him to attend classes part of the day in order to work the rest of the day. He started out selling plants from an 8-by-10-foot greenhouse in his mother's driveway; he now owns 17 acres off of U.S. 1 near the intersection with Chris Cole Road, including about six acres dedicated to his two businesses — Dale's Greenhouse and Garden Center and The Vintage Cottage, which is located next door.

McKinney said he's in no mood to retire completely — he might go to work for some other nursery or start a lawn care business. He was just worn out by the stresses and demanding schedule of running two retail operations.

"This is a 24/7 job," he said, adding that he plans to at least take a few weeks off before starting to think about what exactly to do next.

McKinney told his approximately two dozen employees about his decision this weekend, and although the greenhouse is closed through Wednesday, many staff members were on hand Monday helping get ready for the giant sale that will start 8 a.m. Thursday. Gene Koch, a retail consultant who's helping coordinate this final sale, said everything will be on sale — plants, tools, paintings and even the greenhouses themselves — and that he's expecting it to be big.

"It'll be a zoo here," Koch said. "Dale doesn't think so, but he's so well known in the community, it will be."

Koch said the prizes, giveaways and contests won't hurt, either. Everyone who shops will earn points based on how much they spend. At the end of the sale, the 10 people who bought the most — whether in one all-out spree or in many smaller trips — will receive a prize. The top three prizes are a 37-inch television, a Kindle HD tablet and a Keurig coffee brewer.

McKinney said he's also looking for someone wants to lease the property, and that he's even willing to let a potential buyer keep the name Dale's Greenhouse. He said that since he has been selling to people in town — and people from Moore County and even out of state — for so long, a name change could hurt the new tenant. Finally, he said, he's going to miss his customers and his employees, but he has made up his mind to close up shop.

"I have most definitely been successful, and it has been a dream come true," he said.

Julie Dunn, the greenhouse's floral designer, expressed mixed emotions about the closing.

"Sad," she said of her first reaction to hearing the news. "But I'm happy for him, that he's made enough to do this on his own terms."

Elizabeth Riddle, the store manager and a high school classmate of McKinney's, said she is also sad, especially because she had been one of the first people back at the beginning to urge McKinney to leave another job and focus on his own business full time.

"I told him he could make it on his own," she said.

It worked out for McKinney, who said working outdoors — especially with plants — has always been in his blood.

"Most 8-year-olds, for Christmas, want toys," he said. "I wanted a riding lawnmower. And I was out there mowing grass that did not need to be mowed in the middle of winter."