We were very proud to to have been named as one of the three finalists in the prestigious 2023 Kings Lynn and West Norfolk Business Awards.
We were nominated in the headline category for outstanding achievement in business, in recognition of our hard work and progress in improving and regenerating what was Dents Farm Shop over the last four years
This year we will be working towards extending our plant area and introducing new ranges of plants and gardening accessories throughout the centre. We have already extended our car park and are also developing a woodland walk adjacent to the garden centre, for the public to enjoy and for educational purposes; more news on this as it develops.
You can read here a brief history of our story so far...
In late 2018 we saw an opportunity, a little gem nestled on the edge of Norfolk. We’d been in the garden centre trade for nearly fifty years and were looking to branch out,
expand our horizons, to see if we could bring our unique brand of garden retail to a whole new audience. After searching near and far for a year or two we found Dents Farm Shop,
a good farm shop, a modest garden centre and a locally respected restaurant. Our search was over.
Dents became Baytree of Hilgay in February 2019. We had lots of ideas and lots of work to do. With spring just around the corner we had to prioritise the garden centre, so we had a quick spring clean through the farm shop and the restaurant and essentially left them doing what they’d been doing.
We quickly filled the plant area and seasonal glasshouse with a comprehensive range of quality plants, a good proportion of which came from our own nurseries back in Weston, Lincolnshire. We also engaged with regional suppliers to keep the plants we offered as local, fresh and of the quality as we could.
Introducing new ranges of gardening sundries, tools, fertilisers, pots and ornaments was not without problems. The space we had was limited, but we like a challenge and the staff we’d retained from the changeover rallied with us and we soon had a garden centre. Word soon spread and the local residents from near and far were coming to see the changes, but we were just getting started.
Every visit starts in the car park, we had parking for around fifty or so cars on rough, potholed hardcore. This made visiting demanding for any customers with walking difficulties, those with wheelchairs or pushchairs were unlikely to visit twice!
Around fifteen hundred square metres of fresh, smooth tarmac with lined spaces for over fifty cars. A couple of hundred tons of granite chippings on our new overflow area
and even more parking on a firm grassed area gave us space for around one hundred and fifty vehicles. Now we just had to give the customers somewhere to shop.
Next was to regenerate the garden centre. Extending the plant area was important to us; we’ve always believed in playing to our strengths and for us that’s plants, give the customer the best quality, choice and value, we try to pass on our passion for gardening. So our plant area grew, from around two hundred and twenty square metres to nearly nine hundred. Four times the area means four times the choice, we quickly filled the tables and had a great response from our customers.
Then we spruced up a unused part of the centre that joined the Restaurant to the Garden Centre. Our choice of carpet (since replaced) gave the then furniture room, now the new gift department the nickname “The Cadbury Room” (yes, it was that purple). Next was the old, empty agricultural shed. The five hundred square metre barn was reclad, partitioned for retail and storage, a new floor laid and air conditioning installed. The new garden furniture and barbecue area became an instant success and freed up space for additional important gardening sundries back in the garden centre.
While all this was going on, we resurfaced some of the outside areas, extending the restaurant patio to three times its original size and adding a hard landscaping department to compliment the plant area. To date the changes have almost doubled the size of the retail area and there’s more to come. We have made gentle tweaks to the restaurant and farm shop as a result of listening to our customers and now we have a sound foundation to forge ahead with more expansion.
The construction of the car park was our first improvement, from pot holed sunken gravel to lined smooth tarmac with a healthy gravelled overflow in just two days.
The car park isn’t always occupied by super cars, but on occasion it does attract a few owners clubs.
We also added the Restaurant patio extension with retaining wall, completed the dining experience. There’s now more space outdoors than in.
The old farm shed, took on a new lease of life; completely reclad in insulated steel and a sparkling new interior and racked storage area.
The “Cadbury Room” has probably seen the most change over the last three years.
From an empty room to a furniture display room, a Christmas department and now finally (refloored) housing ranges of floristry, giftware, greeting cards and clothing.
How should we measure our success? It’s easy and necessary to quantify our accomplishments financially.
Our increased turnover in the last three years has exceeding our expectations. In many ways we should accept that as a success,
particularly with covid lockdowns, restaurant closures and the reluctance of customers to come back after the lockdowns.
However we think success goes deeper than the balance sheet….
To be truly successful and to achieve longevity in business we must form relationships with our customers. We endeavour to treat all our visitors with the courtesy they deserve.
We must treat our staff with respect and provide them with a good place to work; somewhere they feel proud to be a part of and be happy in their roles.
We will always be judged by what we sell, forming positive relationships with good local suppliers will ensure the ongoing success of their business as well as ours.
Striving to grow and nurture the best possible plants on our nurseries is still a priority, even after over fifty years
All this of course is very difficult to measure. The internet provides us with a gauge, google reviews, facebook ratings etc… the vast majority of our reviews are 5 stars, so if that’s a good measure, we’ll take it.
Since our tenure in Norfolk began we have endeavoured to engage the community and support local organisations as much as we can.
We provide space for local charities and fund raising teams to hold events. From Hedgehog hotels to local mental health charities we are nothing if not diverse.
We encourage national organisations into the area with rallies from various classic car clubs and other organisations descending on us on a regular basis.
We have provided planted containers to enhance local villages, free Christmas trees to needy families and churches, even supplied the local primary school with freshly baked scones.
We are always looking for ways to develop the next generation of gardeners, we hold regular events for children to encourage them to get
involved not just with plants but with the wildlife and vital eco systems within their garden and the glorious Norfolk countryside. Weather its planting seeds,
learning about herbs, painting birdhouses, running educational competitions or just visiting Father Christmas, there’s always happy children around !
Our staff numbers have increased year on year, we maintained most of the staff that originally worked for Dents and have naturally recruited several more since.
Our retention rate is very favourable, which suggests our staff enjoy being here.
Working at Hilgay is always a pleasure, the whole ambience is one of joy, and that’s down to the staff, they are a delight to be around and that
rubs off on the customers. We think there is a calm and cheerful atmosphere at Baytree Hilgay, we hope you feel it too.
There’s more to come too, we’ve already developed more of the car parking, had a refurbishment in the seasonal glasshouse; new floor, new tables.
The next year or two should see some addition retail areas and further extension to the plant area. We’re developing the woodland to the rear of the centre and hope
to open a wildlife walk and picnic area quite soon and as for next Christmas….