Spotlight On: Loch Lomond Homes & Gardens Centre, Balloch
Our "Spotlight On" Loch Lomond local businesses continues, this time with an insight into the daily workings of Loch Lomond Homes & Gardens Centre in Balloch, thanks to Manager Thomas Callaghan.
Hi Thomas, please tell us about the Loch Lomond Homes and Gardens Centre The Centre is independently owned by the Shaw family from Dunoon. I manage the centre, my wife Lorna bakes and my daughter Emma cooks so we try to create a family environment where our customers feel that they are investing in a family business rather than a multi-national. We have a very small but talented team here, for example, Paul, our hugely talented botanist and his assistants Fiona and Jean. The garden centre opened in April 2007 and I took over the management some two years ago and since then the café has won a Scottish home baking award and more importantly, many friends and regular visitors. What’s your role in the centre and do you have such a thing as a typical day? I don’t have such a thing as a typical day. I can be seen driving a forklift, cooking, cleaning, building, serving customers, dealing with reps etc etc all in the same day. A very important part of our day is sourcing healthy and good looking plants for our customers, we can be in touch with as many as 10 different nurseries daily. We also spend a good part of our day solving customers’ gardening problems. What can people see and do at the centre? Within the garden centre our many visitors can browse through the multitude of plants we stock, browse our clothing, giftware, outdoor and indoor furnishings, fencing, aggregates, barbecues and fire pits, fertilisers, kitchenware or just pop in for a spot of lunch and a cake. We also take in educational trips from schools and run free gardening classes for our customers. We are also home to the Loch Lomond Bird of prey centre which has a fabulous display of the most stunning birds of prey. Can you tell us more about the centre’s loyalty card scheme? The loyalty card, which is free, has proven to be very popular. It offers members generous rewards points, free teas and coffee, half price delivery and at least 4 members evening per year. A typical members’ event would entail a finger buffet, glass of wine, live music, seasonal demonstrations and, sometimes, a surprise: at our last we put on a fireworks display that the members spoke about for weeks after, we sent out 300 invites and 300 members turned up. Where do your customers come from and what do you think they like best about the centre? I am sometimes surprised at the distances people will travel to visit us, we have of course our local G83/82 regular customers and families who come from Islay, Pitlochry The Cowal Peninsula, regular day trippers from Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as the tourist trade. I think the Café is a big attraction, but, I will share a nice comment made by Archie and Mary, two of our very regular customers: “This is not shopping, this is like visiting family”. So I guess the customers like the fact that they are always made to feel welcome most of all. What are customers buying at the moment – what’s popular? Our Afternoon Tea for Two at less than £5.00 per head. Our customers are buying heavier made garden furniture given the storms we have experienced over the last two years, artificial grass is also very popular as is the new range of giftware we are stocking. Plants will always be our best sellers though and our botanist Paul is meticulous in his selection of these. The current spell of rainy days has also seen an upsurge in the popularity of weatherproof coats and Wellies! My Grandmother used to say that Scotland was only so bonnie because “it gets washed every day”. Any news about the centre you’d like to share with us? We are currently organising The Tartan Tear-Up, an event for charity (Robins House) on the 26th of July, this will comprise of music, food, kids mini Tartan Olympics, demonstrations, re-enactments, face painting, raffles, highland dancing all done whilst sporting your favourite Tartan. If you wish to donate prizes or have a group that would like to be involved in this event please call me on 01389 752 947. Do you have any gardening top tips for us? There are many places to purchase plants but very few which employ the talents of a botanist, who will ensure you have the correct plant for the correct position at the correct height and in the correct type of soil. I suppose what I am trying to say is you don’t go to the dentist for a haircut! Many thanks to Manager Thomas Callaghan for taking the time to chat to us. Loch Lomond Homes & Gardens Centre is open Mondays to Saturdays 9.30 am - 5.30pm and Sundays 10 am - 5pm. Visit the website or follow on Facebook.