Get Your Kicks, on Route 66!

Get Your Kicks, on Route 66!

by John Kennedy

When you finish this thoughtful message about Route 66, enjoy a version of It's Wonderful and Route 66... performed by Diana Krall and Natalie Cole at the end.

Over the last four years, in the Northern Virginia area, there has been a flurry of infrastructure improvements nearby our home in Centreville (a bustling DC Suburb). A crazy, constant cacophony of construction and chaos.

One route in particular that has been the most difficult to navigate, putting Google Maps in a tailspin tizzy, is Route 66!

Painful and prolonged, problematic and puzzling at times, we are finally starting to see the fruit of its labor of love… and asphalt.

This isn’t the same famous Route 66, of course…that one began construction in 1926, connecting Chicago to Los Angeles. A wonderful testament of forward-thinking… highlighting America and Americana at its best. But the idea is the same.

Get folks to their destinations quicker, connect communities, and “go west young man!”

Oh, and drive revenues…let’s not forget they have to pay for that dang thing! They have installed an Express Lane for those who are willing to pay more to get to and from work quicker (think Disney-style pricing at attraction lines).

As population areas grew, and vehicles became more of the everyday mode of transportation, everything accelerated. And that new improvement and rapid acceleration is what I also see happening in the garden center industry as well.

The IGC’s have migrated out of the “price economy” of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, adopted a more “experience economy” in the 90’s and 2000’s, and since the pandemic, quickly adopted the “convenience economy” (think e-commerce, curbside pick-up, and the resurrected QR code).

We’ve also attracted new “drivers” from outside our industry to join us on our long-used roadways, merging into the traffic of a busy retail garden center with new perspectives, insights and ideas.

No longer must you have a horticulture background to fill roles in the green industry.

We all have witnessed your new applicants and hires having minimal or no hort experience as they look for job opportunities…and we must accept that new reality.  Willingness beat’s ability every day of the week…hire, educate and make them able and you can build a world-class team!

The same holds true at the upper levels of leadership and ownership as well.

As I continue to be extremely grateful to serve the green industry for over 20 years, the last three years have been most eye-opening to this trend. New drivers, driving improvements, streamlining systems, enhancing communication methods, and directly engaging with the younger and more digitally savvy natives of the industry is picking up speed.

The road beneath us is changing rapidly in experience, talent and expectations, and I wanted to ask a few of the new (and not-so-new) “Garden Center Drivers,” who came from an entry ramp from outside the industry, how they are adapting to the differences they have noticed as they take the wheel and accelerate into the future of the IGC.

Debbie Pell, Co-Owner of Lindley’s Nursery & Garden Center in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, came from a 20-year career in digital marketing and advertising for the Orlando Sentinel, as well as corporate recruiting, before purchasing the garden center. She and her daughter Jenni (Co-Owner) find that the biggest difference between the green industry and the corporate world is the customer side of the ledger. Debbie’s former work was profit-centric and the green industry leans more towards being people-focused. Debbie and Jenni are a perfect blend of both—Profits, People and Plants…and Pottery!!


Frank Escobar is the new Human Capital guru for Flamingo Road Garden Center in Davie, Florida and joined their team from a technology retail background at Best Buy. He finds the biggest challenge in his transition is a “fixed mindset” that may stymie the ability to manage the change and transformation needed to bring the industry up to par with other leading industries.

“Thinking about tomorrow is less important than thinking about two years from now.”



 Devon Klingman, new Co-Owner of Rockledge Gardens in Rockledge, Florida with her partner Brendan Hayes-Morrison, came to the industry as sea-going merchant mariners aboard cargo ships. They both are enamored by the wonderful team spirit that they have embraced at the garden center and the smiles that are generated and measured daily by the experiences their customers have…not as evident from their previous work lives on the sea. Navigating their own future was a big part of the decision to purchase RG and “has allowed us to be the primary drivers and owners of our success.”



Ben Pecnik, Vice President of Louisiana Nursery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana arrived to the industry from the retail sporting goods space—Dick’s. Although employed previously in the green industry, his return to the IGC community finds a few positive differences including the quality of staff members, better work/life balance and customer engagement. Differences also include lack of technology-based solutions, employee training, and processes to drive internal improvements.

As we finished the interviews, they were each asked what the IGC of the future will require.

They preached the need to ensure experiential differentiation from the other options their customers have to shop, enhance the vendor/store relationships, improve internal communication, drive more “off-cycle” visits to the garden center, prioritize hiring/training with “positive personality” over “plant knowledge,” and finally,  to always expand your knowledge base by leveraging trade shows, meeting other IGC’s and attending “outside our industry” events to see how business is being done elsewhere.

And take it from these four fine folks…business development is a team sport. It requires a wide range of perspectives and solutions from both inside and outside of the industry.

As the old saying goes, the strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf!

When you need some directions on your IGC journey, don’t ask Google Maps, you may get lost in construction or translation.  Ask your other Garden Center Group Members who are driving the same roads and spaces you are, setting the navigation for the future of the industry, and ride-sharing the journey together.

Get your kicks and build your very own Route 66!

John Kennedy is Co-Founder of BoomerWrangle, LLC. with his amazing wife, Souny.

BoomerWrangle is the new corporate entity that houses all of their talents & tools to support The Garden Center Group members.

From innovative solutions such as “Your GroupSpace,” customized on-boarding videos,  strategic planning and team engagement,  BoomerWrangle, LLC has become a single-source digital solution & strategic planning agency to maximize employee engagement, organizational excellence, build sales and service cultures, ease of ordering and operational efficiency!

for more information and insights into their growing toolbox of IGC solutions!

[email protected]
[email protected]

REMEMBER: Your interaction (by phone and email) with Group Service Providers such as John Kennedy, Tim Quebedeaux, Sid Raisch, Jean Seawright, and of course Danny Summers are included in your retainer!

And, while you are thinking about Route 66, enjoy this version of It's Wonderful and Route 66... performed by Diana Krall and Natalie Cole:

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