Three Minutes on a Park Bench With Theresa Costello

Anyone can grow a pepper or two—promise!

Theresa Costello, right, with her manager Deena Vervynckt.
Theresa Costello, right, with her manager Deena Vervynckt.

Spring is coming—or at least that's what I keep telling myself. 

And spring means gardening. 

So rather than snow and ice, let's talk seeds, plants and getting your nails dirty with Theresa Costello, owner of The Plant Station in Birmingham

Patch: Spring planting needs to start...when? Now? If we should get cracking, what's the best first step? Start seeds indoors?

Theresa: March is a good time to start prepping your beds—if the snow ever goes away, ha ha. Seriously, the end of the month is a good time to clean out the debris, start adding some soil and time-release fertilizer. That way the hardest part is done before you want to start planting.

I am really not a fan of starting seeds indoors. It is a hard process and you can’t just put them in the ground. Every type of seedling requires different lighting, feeding and watering. People are a lot busier these days and don’t have the time for that. The demand for seeds has declined steadily for the last several years. 

P: Name two vegetable plants that even the blackest thumb can grow successfully.

T: Tomatoes and green peppers.

P: How long have you been in business? 

T: Since the spring of 2010. [The business itself has been around since the late 70s. Theresa worked for the original owner for 15 years before taking over.] We are here year round and have something for every season!

P: You have a robust Facebook page. I've always wondered: Is it hard for small business owners to keep up with social media?

T: First, it’s a great way to see what everyone is talking about. Secondly, a lot of people use Facebook for their recommendations and marketing these days. If you want to reach those Internet savvy customers, you have to make the time to be visible. Lastly, it is a great way to let people know what’s happening in your business now, not weeks later in an ad. You can show them what you have available and inspire their gardening plans.

P: What's one business mistake that looking back, you are actually glad you made?

T: The year we closed and then re-opened, in 2009. I ordered too many Christmas trees. People didn’t realize we were open that season for Christmas, so sales were slightly down. I took a couple of willing friends and loaded up the van with trees and took them down to the Cass Corridor in Detroit. We gave them to anyone who wanted a tree on Christmas Eve. Making a few people happy was worth the loss of a few dollars in over stock.

P: What makes Birmingham a special place?

T: Birmingham is one of the few remaining ‘neighborhood’ communities (like Royal Oak and Clawson) where you have a loyal customer base still supporting their local businesses. There is not a day that goes by during the summer season when neighbors and friends run into each other here at the Plant Station. Every summer, we hire local high school and college students, many returning for several seasons.

P: What's something about you that would surprise the people who know you best? (Don't be shy! This is only going to thousands of people's inboxes and the entire world wide web!)

T: That I am a licensed Nail Tech. Funny—I went from making nails look pretty and neat to having dirt under them while I work. 

P: If you weren't in the gardening business what else would you be doing?

T: Probably massage therapy. I am a certified massage therapist as well.

The Plant Station is at 720 S. Adams, Birmingham, Michigan.

"Three Minutes on a Park Bench With..." is a feature that lets you peek inside the lives of people who share your patch of Earth, whether its your street, your town or state. They may be firefighters, moms, bagpipers or brewmasters, but they all have one thing in common—passion. They love what they do and where they do it. Actual park bench optional so if you know a great person for this space drop us a line at kathleen@patch.com. 
Paul Stenquist February 18, 2014 at 04:01 PM
A welcome and informative interview. But you must have met Theresa in Birmingham or Troy, because there are no parks in Bloomfield Township. Can't afford them. Have to pay for the cars and 4-day work week that township employees enjoy.


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