Most southern New Jersey residents know Dave Scott as the owner of Laurel Oak Garden Center, a Marlton oasis of greenery conveniently located on Tomlinson Mill Road and the Marlton Parkway. I know him as the MC (Master of Comedy) at the Marlton Business Association’s monthly networking luncheons.
When Dave isn’t busy rehearsing for his pending cable-TV sitcom, he provides much-needed counseling to runaway perennials and advocates for orphaned poinsettias.
By All Writes: Why did you/your family decide to start Laurel Oak Garden Center? When did you found/start it?
Dave Scott: It all began in my mother’s womb; I couldn’t believe how dull and drab things were in there. Fast forward to sophomore year in high school, when basically, I had a “working” epiphany whilst cutting grass in Moorestown for my employer. I knew I didn’t want to cut grass my whole life, yet I loved working outdoors. (Perhaps I was still trying to escape from “inside” the womb?)
Off I went to my guidance counselor, who proceeded to pull out the “big book of careers.” (This was before the Internet and Google, so it was an actual book.) We settled on landscape architecture as my field of study. Fast forward again to one Thanksgiving day, when my brother-in-law and I sat in my bedroom, talking. We were two young, crazy, low-wage guys with a unified vision of dispensing customer service way better than our current employers. Good times…
As we drafted our initial business plan (aka “The List”), Man on the Silver Mountain (by Richie Blackmore and Rainbow) played on my Radio Shack turntable. I wanted to be able to control my own future, and I knew being in business for myself was the only way to do it. This was November, 1985 – by March of 1986, we were in business!
BAW: What services and/or products do you offer your current and potential customers?
DS: Many people don’t realize we offer (northeastern-style) samba hot-coal dancing lessons. Beyond unique dance outreach programs, we offer other more garden-centric programs. Our fun Wee Wednesday program (the first Wednesday of every month) gives preschoolers the opportunity to learn about a gardening topic, make a craft, and enjoy a snack. For adults flying solo without the kids, we have our evening/weekend Learn at Laurel Oak seminar series.
Our Landscape Design/Build division helps homeowners create their own alfresco version of happiness – patios, water gardens, and backyard retreats are our specialties! We carry a wide selection of unique yard greenery, vegetable gardening, and flower gardening necessities. In addition to offering a full range of mulch, stone and soil products, we are a distributor of Techo-Bloc hardscape materials.
Our unique outdoor display includes an open-air kitchen – you might even catch our landscape supervisor, “Big Jon,” grilling his latest concoction on certain days. When staff members can’t agree on something, it’s often settled in an after-work dance-off (aka “battle dances”).
BAW: Who makes a good customer for you?
DS: We love both first-time gardeners and seasoned veterans of the garden wars! I especially enjoy working with “newbies” who are either first-time homeowners or folks who’ve decided it’s finally time to try wrestling with trees and shrubs. I cherish the veterans because they appreciate the unique plants we offer and Laurel Oak’s reputation for quality and value. It’s nice when a customer gets all ramped up about a plant or product the way I do – it’s a real connection.
BAW: What is your ultimate “happy moment” when working with your customers?
DS: One of my favorite moments is when customers come back, share garden success stories, and credit our staff and products as part of the happy ending. We also really love it when customers bring in a photo of a landscape we installed for them and tell us how their friends and neighbors are raving about it. When in-store customers express how amazed they are that we take our time explaining products and answering questions, I’m a happy business owner (which leads to more dancing).
BAW: If you could relocate your garden center and nursery to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
DS: I would trek across the country and relocate Laurel Oak Garden Center to the Portland, Oregon area. We visit growers out there for some of the unique nursery stock we carry; I never cease to be amazed by that whole region. Portland has a long growing season, as well as gorgeous weather and scenery. Plus, the people are really nice, and I know I could demolish a lot of them in dance-offs…
BAW: What is your favorite book (or who is your favorite author) to read and why? Please share generously!
DS: When I’m not reading books regarding Hund’s Rule of Maximum Multiplicity and its implications for interstellar physics (so many of these books!), I do enjoy Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s a great book that applies well to both business and personal relationships.
I’ve probably read it at least five times by now, but I didn’t discover Mr. Carnegie’s fabulous book until later in life. Because of this, I buy each of my kids a copy of the book for their 16th birthday. So far, they’ve thanked me at least 12,643 times.
Are you in desperate need of landscaping/hardscaping help (or better dance form and etiquette tips)? Laurel Oak Garden Center has something for gardeners of every thumb color. You can reach the landscape office at 609-953-7943 and the main store at 856-596-7779. You’re also cordially invited to visit Laurel Oak’s website or Facebook page.
Send all your gardening, landscaping, or hardscaping questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. As Dave likes to ask rhetorically, “Where else but Laurel Oak Garden Center in Marlton, NJ, can you have so much fun without getting arrested?”