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Customer service & hard work help Danville couple increase business eight fold in 14 years

Nathan and Lisa Campbell's business philosophy is simple: they don 't expect their employees to do any jobs they themselves don 't do.

During spring, the busiest season for their company, Danville Gardens, Lisa works 80 hours a week and Nathan works up to 100 hours a week watering, spraying, planting, counting money and even cleaning toilets.

I sweep the floor every day just like everybody else does,  Lisa said.

Hard work has helped them grow the business eight fold in sales since they purchased it in 1993.

Although the business has existed since at least 1915, the Campbells are only its third owners. The greenhouses on the property at 1307 Cleary Ave. in Danville cover 21/2 acres and are filled with herbs, plants, trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables.

To grow their business, the Campbells rebuilt all of the greenhouses except for one, which dates back to 1925. They replaced small greenhouses with larger ones that are connected and have concrete floors rather than gravel. They also added automatic waterers.

After they bought the business, the Campbells decided to focus on retail sales and increased them from 30 percent of the business to 70 percent.

Lisa attributes this to word of mouth advertising that is passed on because the Campbells try to offer exceptional customer service and quality products. For example, she will spend an hour with a customer who needs advice on planting a garden.

Nathan said, We consider ourselves a mom and pop greenhouse, and we try to have that same customer service that you would associate with an older mom and pop business, and I think in America, that 's getting harder to find. 

Lisa said, We really try to have the best quality plants. Nathan is the grower and he is very particular and wants the plants to be perfect. 

Danville Gardens sells many hanging baskets and ferns, but germaniums are its biggest seller at close to 40,000 a year. The business is open from mid-March to Christmas Eve.

It sells at the Market at the Square in Urbana and has a location at 1413 N. Prospect in Champaign.

It 's just a sampling of what we have here [at the Danville location] and what we hoped to do with it was just tease people and they could see what we have and maybe drive over here if they want larger quantities,  Lisa said.

Danville Gardens sells wholesale to independent garden centers as far away as Rockford and Indianapolis.

Nathan received a degree in horticulture and worked in a couple of greenhouses before the couple purchased Danville Gardens and moved from Culpepper, Va. to Danville after they saw an ad for the business in a trade magazine. They were working seven days a week in Virginia and decided they might as well work that hard for themselves, Lisa said.

Lisa has a biology/pre-med degree, but enjoys working at the greenhouse.

I love it,  she said. It 's like it 's in your blood and you can 't get it out. 

She tells her employees that if they don 't really enjoy their jobs to find something else they do enjoy because life is too short.

Nathan and Lisa work well together and have known each other since first-grade in southern Indiana. They were friends throughout high school and went to junior prom together. Lisa said their friendship has been a good basis for marriage and business. They have two children.

—Greta Hale is editor of Central Illinois Business Magazine. She can be reached at 217-351-5695 or ghale@news-gazette.com.

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