Green thumbs and full hearts

DREAM TEAM: Whyalla Garden Centre staff (L-R) Back - Mikayla French, Kylie French, Bruce Higgins, Leanne Freymark, Suzy Mackinlay. Front - Charlene Higgins, Katrina McDonald, Cheryl Main and Karen Heald at the Business of the Year dinner.
DREAM TEAM: Whyalla Garden Centre staff (L-R) Back - Mikayla French, Kylie French, Bruce Higgins, Leanne Freymark, Suzy Mackinlay. Front - Charlene Higgins, Katrina McDonald, Cheryl Main and Karen Heald at the Business of the Year dinner.

While the impact of COVID-19 was anything but positive for most businesses in the steel city, the siblings who own the Whyalla Garden Centre could have never predicted it would become a blessing in disguise.

Business owners Bruce Higgins, Leanne Freymark and Kylie French experienced an sudden surge of interest in gardening as many locals turned to gardening while in lockdown.

"In the early stages of COVID everyone became instant gardeners, everyone wanted everything at the same time...potting mix companies were running out of potting mixes," Bruce said.

"COVID has been absolutely huge for us."

The business that would eventually become the garden centre started in 1960, when their father and grandfather jointly-purchased the building.

Initially the family ran a dry-cleaning business out of the shop, but would eventually change with the times and turn to providing garden supplies and products in 1985.

"We grew up on a farm so gardening has been in our blood ... everbody comes in looking for something different and we do our best to help them out," Leanne said.

Having been in a presence in Whyalla's business community for over 60 years, this award was a long time coming for the garden centre, but totally worth the wait.

"It's awesome, it's an honour...it has given us the warm fuzzies," Leanne said.

Bruce said it was great to win the "gold medal" of business awards in Whyalla, and Leanne gave praise to the garden centre's staff, who have worked hard to keep up with increasing demand for plants and supplies.

"They are fantastic people, they're our work colleagues and they all get on together ... without them we wouldn't be where we are today," she said.

One of the garden centre's traditions is to buy a birthday cake for each member of staff on their birthday - something that Bruce takes pride in.

"The more staff we have the more birthday cakes we get...whenever we get the dates wrong we still get birthday cake anyway," he said.

Much like the siblings that own it, the garden centre has become a family, one that now has the highest honour a business can achieve in Whyalla.