What does it take to grow a garden center from one small location to three large destinations, all over the span of almost four decades?
Dedication - and the right tools for the job.
Just ask Frank Vastano, owner of Metropolitan Plant and Flower Exchange in northern New Jersey. Since 1979, Vastano has been working hard day after day to provide exceptional products and services for his customers. In the process, they’ve grown from a small 2,000-foot retail store into an empire of three large garden centers spread across Northern NJ.
One key tool contributing to his continued growth: the installation of Matterhorn structures from Rimol Greenhouse.
It’s under the protected roofs of his Matterhorn structures that Vastano welcomes a diverse customer mix, a team of bilingual employees, and inventories of specific items such as fish, house plants and seasonal gifts to meet the needs of certain international cultures. For Metropolitan Plant and Flower Exchange, that protection has made a big difference - and the results are what keeps customers coming back for more.
From Humble Origins, Finding Room To Grow
Stand about 1,000 feet northwest from the iconic George Washington Bridge that leads into Manhattan and you’ll be at Metropolitan Plant and Flower Exchange’s flagship store in Fort Lee, NJ. But that wasn’t their first location - and, as it turns out, neither would it be their last.
Around 2007, the city of Fort Lee was in desperate need of property for city operations and storage. The city approached Frank Vastano about moving his business, Metropolitan Plants and Flowers, to a more convenient spot. Vastano accepted, and embarked upon a huge project of designing and constructing a new operation just up the road at the junction of Routes 4, 9 and the New Jersey Turnpike.
On the new piece of land, Vastano and his team ran into major challenges working with limited space and were forced to do quite of bit of site work, including building a 35 foot retaining wall along the New Jersey Turnpike. The results, however, were more than worth it: a beautiful, state-of-the-art garden center boasting over 5,000 square-feet of covered space underneath the Matterhorns, ready to serve over 100 towns in Northern New Jersey.
These covered spaces have proven to be an important draw for customers, bringing a diverse clientele, including many international customers from Korea, Japan, Russia, Spain and the Middle East.
“It’s really nice to have that covered space available for shopping,” said Vastano, reflecting on the impact of these Matterhorn structures on the business. “In fact, I just had a customer call to ask if we had any dry Christmas trees - and thanks to that roof over the retail space, we had plenty. That’s a benefit, and protects our plants from the frost, rain, and other elements that can affect appearance.”
A Look Underneath The Equipment
One of the main reasons Vastano has been so interested in the Matterhorn: just how easy it is to get up and installed.
“Rimol makes it surprisingly easy to assemble everything quickly,” said Vastano. “They send everything as easy frames, nuts, and bolts, along with a big book of really specific direction. Together, my team alone got everything up and built in just days.”
The Matterhorns at Metropolitan’s Fort Lee location have a sixteen foot gutter height to connect to the brick exterior of the building and were specially designed with different shaded coverings for maximum comfort for the plants, the customers and the employees.
Underneath the structures there are also kiosks for customer service, and friendly employees are always waiting to serve customers. Today, there are three Metropolitan Plant and Flower Exchange locations, including West Orange (where Vastano put up another 5,000 square-feet of Matterhorn covering) and Paramus.
Also part of the family is the Metropolitan Farm and Garden Shop, located on the oldest continuously-operating farm in the state of New Jersey in Closter, NJ. It was at this inviting farm property that Vastano, in 2007, erected with his team the largest Matterhorn structure they’ve put up to date: 11,000 square feet of covered retail space, where customers can browse everything from thousands of perennials and shrubs to farm-grown eggs and other offerings.
Extending the Sales Season
Since we first got to know each other over a decade ago, we’ve seen Frank Vastano develop and grow Metropolitan Plant and Flower Exchange into a first class business with his three stores in Northern New Jersey becoming a local landmark in the shadows of New York City.
Today, Vastano’s son and daughter both work in the family business and take care of flower arrangements, alongside an extensive team of employees all working to provide the best service possible for their customers. In one weekend alone, Metropolitan may provide flower arrangements for fifteen weddings.
That kind of business calls for the right tools to meet demand - and, with durable Matterhorns protecting years of hard work and experience, Vastano has put those tools to work to build an amazing business.