Metro Detroit garden centers reopen, lawn crews get back to work

After staring down the hardest period in his company's 65-year history, English Gardens President John Darin is ready to move forward. And he finally can. 

After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted the restrictions on some businesses Friday amid the COVID-19 crisis, garden centers across Metro Detroit geared up to open, readying supplies and calling back employees who'd been laid off.

The same goes for landscaping services, which are also allowed to work again.

Brien Worrell, owner of Milford-based lawn service company Brien’s Services, is eager to get back on his mower after restrictions on lawn services were lifted by Gov. Whitmer on Friday.

English Gardens plans to open its six Metro Detroit locations at 9 a.m. Saturday. Ray Wiegand's in Macomb Township also planned to open at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Bordine's opened three of its stores Friday, but planned to open its Grand Blanc location on Saturday. And Graye's Greenhouse in Plymouth is accepting orders for pick-up and delivery only.

The lockdown "was the worst 30 days in our history," said Darin.

But customers should expect some changes when the doors open Saturday. Staff at both English Gardens and Wiegand's will wear masks. Cashiers at English Gardens will also have face shields. And Wiegand's will have masks for customers who may need them.

The lifted restrictions Friday come after the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council said earlier this week the state's retail greenhouses and garden centers were ready to open and could operate while protecting customers and workers.

For example, Eckert’s Greenhouse in Sterling Heights installed signs reminding customers of social distancing guidelines and plans to hand out masks and gloves at the entrance.

Schwartz’s Greenhouse in Romulus will have employees to sanitize shopping carts before and after each use.  "We want to make sure we do this the right way," said manager Chris Schwartz. "We want to get our staff trained so they're prepared to handle the changes."

Capacity at  English Gardens and Wiegand's will be limited, meaning only a certain number of customers will be allowed in at the same time. English Gardens staff also will be screened daily for symptoms of the coronavirus. 

Erma Rhadigan, co-owner of Wiegand's, said she hopes customers will be patient and abide by the new rules.

"We can only allow so many people at once so I hope they have patience," said Rhadigan.

Darin, English Gardens' president, said he actually wasn't expecting Whitmer's decision on Friday — they were planning to open May 1 — but called it "a pleasant surprise." 

"We had no idea," said Darin.

Darin said they had to lay off more 200 employees over the past month and talked to vendors and landlords to give them some flexibility.

But all of those employees were in the process of being called back Friday. Darin said deliveries had to be stopped during the shutdown, so customers should also expect stock to grow as they re-start, but they have a lot of plant material now.

"We’re going to be open and we’re going to be ready," said Darin.

Lawn services can also resume work.

“I’m a bit nervous, anxious, but excited to be able to get back to work,” said Brien Worrell, owner of Milford-based landscaping company Brien’s Services.

Worrell plans add sanitizing services as soon as he receives certification.

“That way we can treat people’s outdoor environments for viruses,” said Worrell, who services mostly southwest Oakland County and Livingston County. “Just being able to go through cleaning their outdoor furniture, mailboxes, a lot of touch points. If we do have a resurgence (of coronavirus) this fall, then we’ll still be an essential company.”

Rob Weingartz owner of Macomb-based Weingartz Lawn & Landscape said he has 12 workers ready to go when he resumes work next week.

“It was a big sigh of relief that we’re going to be able to work and not have to play major catch up,” he said.

Weingartz said he spent a couple thousand dollars on personal protection equipment for his crew, including masks, disinfectant wipes and safety goggles. Each employee has their own labeled equipment.

“My first priority is keeping the guys safe,” he said.