Business Q & A

5 questions with Tim Campbell

Tim Campbell knows a thing or two or 10 about plants, as a third-generation plant raiser and seller.

Campbell, 52, is president of Plant Kingdom, the retail end, and managing partner of Campbell’s Phoenix Greenhouse, the family greenhouse business, which he runs with his father, Gene. The business reaches back 80 years and has been near 37th Street South and Broadway, just south of the railroad overpass, since the mid-1940s. He spent his first year of life in a converted garage on site.

These days the business is going through a major change caused by reconstruction of the overpass. The city has bought some of their land, including one of the family homes. The greenhouses will remain, and the family decided to turn one of them into a year-round retail location, at 3640 S. Topeka. Campbell will also continue to operate two seasonal locations, near Hillside and K-96 and near Harry and Woodlawn.

Campbell, 52, is married to Rita, who runs her family’s Roto-Rooter business. The couple have five sons, all working in the greenhouse business.

Q. How’s business?

A. So far, this year, it’s great. We started early here and are going great.

Q. Did the warm weather bring a surge of shoppers before you were ready?

A. We weren’t entirely surprised. If the weather is good, the people are here. The plants that go out early may be a little smaller and have a little less color. There are always plants like pansies and perennials that people can take a little risk on early. I never advise people to plant before April 15, but this year, watching the extended forecast, I’m getting the idea that we won’t be seeing any late frost.

Q. You closed your permanent stores about seven years ago in favor of seasonal locations. Why are you going back to a permanent location?

A. We have always thought it would be nice to have a year-round location again, so we could capture things like Christmas sales. It’s not really a store. We just took advantage of having 7,000 square foot of greenhouse space to shelter customers from the weather, without having the kind of structure that costs so much in taxes.

Q. The bridge project could start as soon as July. How will it affect the business?

A. It will be a problem while they are doing it, of course, making it hard to get in and out of here with all the vehicles. After it’s done, I hope we’ll have more visibility from the road, so I try to look at the bright side.

Q. So are you a pretty good gardener?

A. Yeah. It’s something where if you cultivate the desire to learn it, you get pretty good at it.