From Family to Flora

Wagner’s Garden Mart

Glendale, WI
Founded: 1953
Owners: Dan Glidden and
Janice Bushe
Employees: 5 full time, 4 part time
Sales Mix: 65% wholegoods,
35% parts & service
Customer mix: 80% consumer,
20% commercial
Major lines: Ariens, Echo, Lawn-Boy, Toro, organic fertilizers and other garden products

Wagner’s Garden Mart is one of the oldest family-owned businesses in Glendale, WI. When the Wagners started thinking about the possibility of retirement, they feared what would happen to their established outdoor power equipment dealership. They were able to plan an exit that would help maintain the business’s name—and place within the community—all with the help of a local landscaper.

Family Foundation

Dick Wagner’s father took over the business from his father in the 1940s. The business at that time primarily served commercial retailers and growers. Several local grocery stores purchased and sold goods from Wagner’s.

Once Dick’s parents took over, they saw new opportunities for the business. At a time when the area was growing residentially, they tried their hand in landscaping. “My father did most of the landscaping for homes that were built as Glendale was growing,” shares Dick. “After all the landscape installations were finished, he got into the power equipment business.” Wagner’s now offered area
homeowners and landscapers a friendly place to purchase power equipment for landscape maintenance.

Dick’s parents owned and operated the company until 1972. Since, Dick and his wife Cathy have successfully run the dealership, upholding the family business. Now 36 years later, they are ready to retire.

The Wagners’ son had worked at the dealership throughout his college years, but the possibility of passing the business responsibilities onto him now was out of the question. The Wagners’ son owns and operates two physical therapy centers that occupy most of his time.

The Wagners wanted to see the dealership continue successfully as a well-known business in the Glendale area. Understanding their son’s career goals, they turned to a long-time customer and friend to carry on the tradition.

A Smooth Transition

Dan Glidden and Janice Bushe of Lakeshore Landscaping Management & Design have been purchasing equipment and landscape supplies from the Wagners for several years. Through the years, they have built up a reputation within the Glendale area as providers of quality landscaping for both the residential and commercial customer.

Dan has been helping out at the dealership the past few years, and the Wagners felt he and Janice would be the perfect pair to carry on their business. “They are a great Glendale family and know a lot of the customers,” explains Cathy Wagner. “It will be a good transition.”

Dan has proven himself knowledgeable of the Glendale area as well as different product lines and categories. The Wagners hope his knowledge and experience will lead to more referrals and future growth for the business. “If you don’t have the vision, it can be very difficult to see success,” shares Dick. “Dan has the knowledge and resources needed to be successful.”

As Dan and Janice transition into their role as owners of the dealership, the Wagners will continue to make themselves available as a resource. They plan to be present daily until June, and afterwards remain only a phone call away when questions arise. Dan also has a friend who runs a dealership in the nearby city of Cedarburg who he will consult if he has any questions.

Preparing the business for the transition has been somewhat challenging, but as soon as a few minor hurdles were overcome, it became more straightforward. “Once the business with product reps and bankers was finished, everything went smoothly,” Cathy explains. “Cleaning out what has piled up in the back over the past 36 years was a bit of a challenge.” Cathy also notes that this time of year is ideal for having the business change hands. “It is a good time of year because the winter lines will be selling out and he gets to start fresh with new spring inventory.”

Ready for Spring

Dan, who has been on full-time at the dealership since November, has already begun to make some changes to the
business. They have repainted the showroom and installed slat wall to display garden equipment, shovels and rakes. Dan plans on continuing the business’ sales of outdoor power equipment while bringing on nursery items as well as fertilizers. Materials for Lakeshore Landscaping will be purchased from Wagner’s at cost.

Dan was especially enthusiastic about the organic fertilizers they will be offering, something he says there is a high demand for in the area. Dick was also excited about Dan’s plan to add more nursery items to the dealership’s product offering. “It’s going back to its roots,” exclaims Dick. “It’s almost back to how it started.”

One thing that won’t change at Wagner’s Garden Mart is the company’s name. “Wagner’s is a well-known name along the north shore,” explains Dan. By keeping the original business name, Dan hopes to carry on the tradition while keeping the established customers.

The employee base at Wagner’s will also remain unchanged. Dan plans to keep all of the current staff. He also plans to add to the staff at Lakeshore Landscaping. “We will hire and train a crew manager to keep the landscape company going,” explains Dan.

A possible first project for the crew manager may be the landscaping they intend to do at the Wagner’s dealership. Dan plans to install some of their best landscaping at the dealership as a means of advertising to customers and showcasing their talents. The Wagners are confident that the diversification the dealer/landscaper has to offer will lead to success. “To be successful you have to be diversified,” explains Cathy. “He is going to have twice the opportunity to be successful.”