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POCATELLO — John Nelson found himself in an unusual position for a businessman preparing for a grand opening, as he sought to strike the right balance between fanfare and public safety amid a pandemic.
At first, his focus was on limiting crowds for the March 27 grand opening celebration of The Pocatello Greenhouse, 1300 E. Oak St., which earlier held its soft opening. He's offering delivery services and curbside pickups of orders to help customers limit their exposure to the highly contagious and deadly new strain of coronavirus called COVID-19.
Then he worried customers may not realize he was allowed to go forward with his grand opening in the face of an announcement by Gov. Brad Little that all businesses in the state deemed nonessential had to close. But the Pocatello Greenhouse is exempt from the closure order because it provides landscaping and agricultural services classified as essential.
"When people think greenhouses, they don't think essential," Nelson said.
He acknowledged he thought he'd have to close upon hearing of the governor's order, prior to the Idaho Nursery and Landscape Association informing him that he was exempt. Nelson explained the greenhouse helps maintain a food supply, selling garden plants and inventory and offering landscaping services that prevent property from deteriorating.
He's encouraging customers to call 208-226-6514 and arrange to have their orders prepared in advance for pickup on a sanitized cart. His landscaping staff will also make next-day home deliveries. Delivery fees will be 10 percent of order value, with a minimum fee of $10 and a maximum fee of $50.
Nelson emphasized that the greenhouse has 13,000 square feet of space, and typically just a few customers are inside at any given time.
"We don't want to put the community at risk," Nelson said. "We especially want to make sure our older clientele who are maybe more cautious with COVID-10 still get served."
Nelson has opted to use the historic name of the business, which the Chase family opened at the location in the early 1900s.
Nelson explained there was once a glass greenhouse on the property, but it was destroyed by hail in the 1960s. The Chase family rebuilt The Pocatello Greenhouse, and in the 1990s, they upgraded again to the current facility.
Nelson said the greenhouse has both a heating and cooling system.
For cooling, the greenhouse utilizes fans and a “wet wall,” which is 6 feet tall and 120 feet long and recirculates cold water throughout a membrane. The greenhouse will be able to offer a prolonged season thanks to its ability to control climate, Nelson said.
The Pocatello Greenhouse closed in the early 2000s. Town and Country Gardens bought the facility and operated it until 2016.
Nelson will initially employ about a dozen workers and plans to add staff during the landscaping season.
He's operated Mountain Top Lawn Care from his Chubbuck home for the past decade. Having both a greenhouse and landscaping business under one roof should offer him significant competitive advantages. Before the landscaping business reaches its peak season, staff will help out in the greenhouse.
Greenhouse customers will have the option of having the trees and shrubs they buy planted by professionals, in addition to lawn care services and sprinkler system repairs.
Nelson believes customers will come to The Pocatello Greenhouse for the expertise available and the opportunity to have questions answered.
"Our job is to make sure our clients are successful in their garden," Nelson said.