On June 21st, 2013 business writer for the Philadelphia Business Journal Natalie Kosteini announced in an article titled Developer buys prime piece of Main Line real estate that Malvern killer developer Eli Kahn has gobbled up and bought the Devon property once home to Waterloo Gardens. Kahn is salivating over the property as per the article :
“How often does six acres on the Main Line on Route 30 across from a train station come up for sale?” Kahn said.
Kahn initially thought a multifamily project with some retail space would work for the site and be similar to a project Kahn is developing with Cornerstone Communities in Malvern, Pa., but those plans might change.
“It’s a phenomenal piece of real estate, and I didn’t anticipate the tremendous amount of interest from retailers,” he said. “I’m working on several different scenarios. Some with a multifamily component and some without.”
Kahn is hopeful he will have a concept to present to the township and neighborhood sometime this summer.
(For what it is worth if i lived next to Waterloo Gardens I would be contemplating a relocation as you know this will undoubtedly end up a cram plan next in an already congested area, right?)
So anyway, after Waterloo did the dance in Devon where they were fine and everything was simply marvelous until they closed Devon and moved all operations to Exton.
Waterloo Gardens also filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection about a year ago now – July 2012 according to Bob Byrne of TE Patch. And it wasn’t merely the decline in the construction business that killed Waterloo like Roberts LeBoutillier CFO said. Their poor business planning following the takeover of the business by the current generation of family did it in my opinion. Dumb things like an expansion to Delaware that never worked out, for example. Insane price points in their stores would be another thing along with what appeared to have been changes to their core business. When some of their long term staff started going elsewhere you also didn’t have access to the same level of gardening advice you once had that when I was growing up that always seemed like it was a core principle you knew all was not peachy keen. Until about seven years ago I could wander into Waterloo and spend hours checking out plants. At that point in time, even if I did not buy something because they were always expensive , I always came away with future ideas for my garden.
It was a little too rose colored glasses when Waterloo Gardens told Today’s Garden Center at the end of July 2012 that they expected to emerge from bankruptcy in late 2012 and 2013.
The nursery and garden center business is not for the faint of heart. It is a brutal business and very seasonable. Once upon a time close to 20 years ago I took a career segue and because of my love of gardening and skill level with gardening I decided to try working for a nursery. I worked for the then Bryn Mawr Feed & Seed which was located by that point on Montrose Avenue in Rosemont (it used to have a location I believe somewhere around Malvern when the brothers were alive). Anyway by that point both brothers who originally ran this business were deceased and one of the widows ran the store.
That was the job where I learned that the fictional character Simon LeGree had nothing on that small business owner. Seriously it was awful and there we all were among all those beautiful plants. I recall many things including being sent to the warehouse when single men came into the shop because the owner felt the younger daughter needed to shine at that point – it was so suburban Cinderella’s stepmother it was funny. However, I did learn with that experience that I did have serious gardening chops and for years after I left my great nursery job experiment I did garden consultations – in particular on roses and container gardening and window boxes. But no joke, I learned first hand how tough the nursery business is. The business there in the end was not sustainable, and the business shuttered and Smith & Hawkin rented and majorly renovated the space. Smith & Hawkin lived in that location happily until that corporate tumble occurred. (I lovvvveeeed Smith & Hawkin)
So anyway for months people have been watching Waterloo and their remaining Exton location and then about three weeks ago or so many of us started hearing closing rumors again.
I confirmed it personally myself when I called the Exton location on North Whitford Road THIS MORNING and asked how much longer they would be open. I was told that as far as employees knew they would be open through August 31st and a “going out of business” sale would start on Friday July 5th.
But you don’t see that information listed on their Facebook Page or website at this point. I know people, including other nursery owners, have gone to Waterloo this week to buy stuff but was told even office supply junk being sold off was being over-priced so I will be curious to see what the liquidators do. I wonder will they be paying people to stand on the highways around here in giant plant costumes waving going out of business signs?
The bummer about this is that the Exton location was always the jewel in the Waterloo crown I thought. That is where all the really awesome plants were.
Once upon a time Waterloo Gardens was something. Now unfortunately they are another local business folding. And that is a damn shame at the end of the day no matter what the root cause of business failure.
I will say that residents of Chester County are luckier than most because we have a LOT of wonderful nurseries. I highly recommend Woodlawn Garden Center & Nursery in Malvern, Somerset Nursery in Glenmoore (and Zionsville) and Del Vacchio Landscape & Garden Center in East Goshen.
Support your local nursery of choice. You will be glad you did and you will get better plants. Shop local!