In 2004, a dedicated group of people living on Buffalo’s West Side got together to brainstorm around the idea of developing a cooperative garden center in the neighborhood. With big box and suburban stores being nearly the only garden resource places at the time, the team felt the importance of keeping their dollars inside our city and for our communities. At the same time, they recognized the opportunity for building a business in this up and coming neighborhood of our city, just five minutes from any yard on Garden Walk Buffalo. The years that followed were spent collecting surveys, offering “plant swaps,” and engaging the community in all things plant related. In 2007 they opened the doors to a brick and mortar shop at 428 Rhode Island Street and have been growing ever since.
Urban Roots Cooperative Garden Market is the only community owned cooperative garden center in the country whose mission is to provide quality products for gardening. Unlike many other plant and gardening shops, Urban Roots is dedicated to setting gardeners up for success through education and expertise by helping customers make choices that will work best for them. Urban Roots is the place to purchase plants, flowers, natives, trees, shrubs, edibles, and gifts at a location you can drive or walk to in just a few minutes.
Unlike other garden centers, this cooperative is there to serve its member-owners by providing the products and services needed and wanted. It also affords you a voice in the business decisions that are made through a democratic process. Profits are put back into the business to enable its growth instead of going to a lone or outside investor(s). In the case of surplus revenue, profits are shared with the member-owners based on the proportion that they use the co-op.
“We’re just below 1,600 member owners. We are different in that our member owners have a say in what we carry and what we do- we really listen to our member owners. So, it’s different in that respect where you’re not just going to a store and having to look for what you want. When I first started, there were a lot of nasty chemicals for plants, and I immediately heard from the member ownership that they really wanted to go more organic. So, other than one or two products, everything we carry is organic. So, people have a say in this business, and I think that has a lot to do with our success,” says General Manager, Patti Jablonski-Dopkin.
As a part of the Urban Roots vision, most of the plants found at the garden center are locally sourced from other growers. While selection may seem smaller than other box stores the turnover of plants is more often, so customers are always getting fresher plants, along with a unique variety that is hard to find at other garden centers. Apart from just the plant selection, the staff is there for customer support, every step of the way.
“We have a strong staff that is knowledgeable across the board. Our goal is to set people up for success. We don’t want somebody to go out with more tools or more products than they need. It’s not a high-pressure sale. We’re selling you things that will set you up for success! We want you to come back and say that the rose is thriving, or that you got a million tomatoes off the tomato plant because of the fertilizer we told you to use- that’s what we want,” says Patti.
While aiming to enrich the community through affordable, unusual, heirloom, native, organic, and local plants, and gardening supplies, they also offer a series of educational classes for gardeners. Whether you’re new to the game or have a seasoned green thumb, there is always something to learn that could better your understanding of growing plants.
“We have a whole winter and early spring series of free educational classes. We really feel that for an informed gardener, the more information we can give out, the more successful they’ll be. Since the beginning of urban roots, we’ve provided free gardening classes.”
Urban Roots is more than just a plant shop, it truly is one of our city’s greatest community resources. By supporting the horticulture community in our city, this team fosters a working relationship with the neighborhood in order to encourage beautification and urban renewal. With this year being their 15th anniversary, there is no better time to get involved than now. Find out about the giveaways and special offers running through the entire year by visiting the website, checking out the store, or signing up for weekly updates.
The shop hours are everyday 9am-5pm and stay up to date on classes, events, and promotions at https://urbanroots.org
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