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February 17, 2014
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Meet Your Merchant: Garden and nursery business brightens up Canyonville

CANYONVILLE — When spring rolls around, Bruce and Joanne Gordon feel renewed.

The couple are energized by their own plantings as vegetables, herbs and flowers at their home greenhouses sprout from the soil and seek the warmth of the sun.

Those plants are then transported to their business, Commonwealth Garden & Gift Shoppe in Canyonville, where they are shared with visitors and available for sale.

“We sell joy, we do,” said Joanne Gordon, 62. “There’s a lot of satisfaction in this business. Ninety-nine percent of the time when people come in here they’re happy. And if they’re not happy when they got here, they’re happy when they leave.”

The Gordons said gardening is their passion.

“We love to see things grow,” said Bruce Gordon, 63.

Kathy Bennett of Days Creek has been a customer at Commonwealth for several years. She described the nursery and gift shop as “very appealing.”

“Bruce and Joanne love what they do, and they bring that to their shop,” Bennett said. “They care about people and the pleasure the plants bring to people. It’s a different type of experience than going to a larger store or a less family-type place. It’s just a fun experience to go through that shop.”

Bennett said that the Gordons are good at remembering what customers buy at the nursery and then will later ask how the plants are faring in a person’s yard.

“They care about what happens with the plants,” she said. “My yard looks so much nicer with the things I’ve bought there. They’re just a resource in every good way.”

The Gordons got into the plant business back in 1992, when they began to sell what they grew from the yard of their Milo-area home. That small start-up evolved fairly quickly into a bigger business approach.

In 1993, they sold their plants at a farmers market in Grants Pass. In 2001, they set up a plant stand in Canyonville. And in 2007, they bought a building and established a storefront along Main Street in Canyonville.

“We transformed ourselves three times since starting in our yard,” Joanne Gordon said. “It’s been a challenge.”

The building housing their business was previously a large truck repair shop with two bays and a parts department. After cleaning and painting, the Gordons turned the bay area into a garden supply display area and the parts department space into a gift shop. Out front are plants and yard decor items.

A year or so after moving into the new location, the Gordons’ business suffered from the recession.

“We came in expecting a certain revenue, and then the revenue was half to two-thirds of what we needed,” Joanne Gordon said. “We had to tighten our belts, we had to work more creatively. We persevered, but we’re used to living light. We expanded what we grew and produced at home and became more self-sufficient in our home life.”

She added the couple put in longer hours and reluctantly cut some hours of their part-time help.

The Gordons said they saw an increase in business through 2013.

The business specializes in carrying organic garden products and the Gordons encourage organic practices, but the business is not certified organic because of the “expensive and complicated process,” said Joanne Gordon.

The couple start vegetables, herbs, flowers and hanging baskets of flowers at their home greenhouses and then bring them to their store to sell. They also purchase other flowers, shrubs, blueberry vines and fruit trees as well as garden art and supplies.

“I’m somewhat surprised and overwhelmed,” Bruce Gordon said of the transformation the business has made through the years. “If gardening wasn’t our passion, we probably wouldn’t be here.”

Joanne Gordon said gardening and working in the business keep the couple physically and mentally active. She said plants come in and go out of style, so changes from season to season keep the business exciting.

The Gordons hold workshops through the year, ranging from a beneficial insect presentation in March to flower arrangements classes prior to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In July, they host an annual Music in the Garden in the outside flower and plant area of their business. The event features a band, dancing, a food vendor and a winery.

“It’s like having a party at our house,” Joanne Gordon said.

“We’ve developed good friendships with our customers, and we enjoy being a positive influence in the Canyonville community,” Bruce Gordon said.

• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at creed@nrtoday.com.


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The News-Review Updated Feb 17, 2014 01:13PM Published Feb 19, 2014 07:47AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.