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Heritage Businesses in WNY / Lockwood's

105 years and growing



Harry Lockwood, grandson of the founder, in front of the current facility and with his wife, Barbara

Contemporary photos by Stephen Gabris

 

4484 Clark Street, Hamburg

weknowplants.com

 

Retail garden center

How old: 105 years

How many employees: 35 to 40 during growing season, 6 in winter

 

Harry Lockwood, age eighty-eight, sits in his kitchen on the land that his grandfather Harry Lockwood bought in 1914. Lockwood can look out his front door and see his mother’s house, where his sister Alice now lives, on the far side of his garden center, Lockwood’s Greenhouses. From the kitchen table, looking north toward the Erie County Fairgrounds, the view spans the large parking lot, growing fields, and greenhouses. This centennial story is one of stability with an important extra: the ability to respond to change.

 

According to Lockwood, success has a lot to do with making some right decisions at the right time, and not getting stuck in old ways. “In the old days—the thirties, for instance—we planted seeds, tended crops, and took them to market,” he recalls. “We grew and transplanted seedlings in the greenhouses. Every winter we waited for spring to start again. Then Dad said, ‘We’ve got to do something in the greenhouse in the winter.’ And growing geraniums came along.”

 

 

Before Lockwood started his retail garden center, many growers were starting roadside stands, and Lockwood asked his family, “Do you all want to work seven days a week?” He held off for a while, but as soon as Steve Lockwood turned ten, he started at the road with two crates and a board selling vegetables, followed by Leslie, Marsha, and Louise in turn. The crates and board became card tables under a tent, until, eventually, wife Barbara found herself out there in the wind and rain with the tent falling on her head. She declared, “If I’m going to do this, you’d better build something!” The Lockwoods moved a house on the property, created parking areas, and built a retail store with an attached greenhouse. While it has expanded, that’s the store and attached greenhouses patrons see today.

 

Setbacks

Besides weather-induced trials, Lockwood’s has taken two serious blows. In the early 1980s, a fire on New Year’s night destroyed the original greenhouse. They rebuilt in winter. In 2014 the seven-foot snows took down several greenhouses. Harry Lockwood now says, “A tragedy leads to more efficiency. We analyzed the new technologies and rebuilt with a four-point-bay gutter-connect greenhouse, about 1000 square feet.”

 

The next new thing

Successful farmers and growers must identify new ways to sell plants. At one point, Jeff Leyonmark of Hamburg, Lockwood’s retail manager for many years, suggested: “Instead of growing individual little plants, we should prepare big pots earlier in spring, ready for people’s decks and patios.” Lockwood said, “Let’s compare.” They tried two ways, using two identical growing benches. When sales were tallied, Lockwood agreed: “Go do it!” Many years of innovative planters have followed.

 

Archival images show founder Harry Lord Lockwood and family and the original greenhouse.

 

A business and family model

Harry Lockwood is humble about taking credit for it all. “I learned you have to be able to let go, transfer authority, and accept some new suggestions—even when you don’t agree. Listen! That’s key. No harsh words!  Barbara and I never had a fight. We stay respectful, and we want that to continue in the family and in the business.”

 

Lockwood’s today is run by Harry’s son, Steve Lockwood, as a partner, daughter, Marcia, as business manager, and Teresa Buchanan managing retail operations. The fifth generation, Hilary, is learning business skills very fast.     

 

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