A totally organic experience
A Tulsa couple open a unique, all-eco garden center.
Kelly and Carla Grogg have put their money where their mission is: helping others grow green.
The couple recently opened an eco-friendly, organic garden center, Grogg’s Green Barn, 10105 E. 61st St. Although other stores and farms provide some organic products, they believe theirs is the first all-eco garden store in Oklahoma.
Unique or not, it is a model of environmentalism — inside and out. From the reclaimed wood used for counters and shelving to the pitched roof prepped for solar panels; from the bamboo tools to the organic pesticides, fertilizers, seeds and plants in their product line, the Groggs have searched far afield to be eco-conscious.
For example, with some help, they converted old grease traps into cisterns for a rainwater harvesting system that will hold up to 4,000 gallons of water. They used recycled road materials for the back lot. They have a water habitat that captures runoff and provides a natural area to attract birds and friendly insects.
While they carry many of the expected flowers, trees and shrubs, they also found a supplier who scours byways for native Oklahoma seeds and grows them organically, Kelly says, adding that because they are native, they are more likely to survive the local weather.
So what made them start the business? You could point to Kelly’s 2005 Master of Business Administration thesis at The University of Tulsa, for which he wrote a business plan for a garden center. You could argue that Carla’s focus on environmentally friendly design and materials as an interior designer was the tipping point.
But the idea probably began with Kelly’s entrepreneurial streak — one that emerged when he was a student at Patrick Henry Elementary School, where he started the GT Card Co., greeting cards the school’s gifted and talented students designed and sold. That morphed into selling pens, pencils and study guides out of his locker to fellow students at Cascia Hall, all short-lived enterprises once the powers-that-be got wind.
No problem. At age 12, when Kelly was old enough to mow lawns, unlike most boys, he discovered he loved it. After mowing his family’s yard, he began taking on other yards. His grandparents bought him a green trailer — still in use at Grogg’s Green Barn — and by age 16, he had three friends working for him and 35 customers. When he sold the lawn-mowing business two years later, he had eight to nine friends helping out, three crews and 60 clients.
After college, Kelly went to work, but the garden-center idea kept gnawing at him. Carla was all for it, she says, but they needed to be the organic alternative. That’s where her eco-friendly experience came into play. In 2006, they purchased two acres across from Union 6th and 7th Grade Center, near East 61st Street and Highway 169 and fronting Kelly’s grandparents’ house. After Kelly spent so much time each week mowing the property, they decided to turn that business plan into a business. They began working with an architect in 2009 and built the following year.
Additionally, Kelly went all the way to Rhode Island to take classes from the Northeast Organic Farming Association to become a certified organic lawn care professional in 2010. And the rest is now Grogg’s Green Barn.
One of their goals, they say, is to educate customers about eco-friendly gardening by providing classes. They are starting the lessons early, devoting one area of the store to child-oriented garden tools, puzzles, maps and games. They also plan to collaborate on a fundraiser this summer for Global Gardens, a special program at Eugene Field and Rosa Parks elementary schools in which students tend community gardens. The Groggs’ two youngsters, Nicklaus and Eva, ages 10 and 3, respectively, were the impetus for this focus on children and are often found on site.
For the present, the Groggs are enjoying the dream.
“Why not have time to educate people, spend time with your wife and kids and do something you love?” Kelly asks.
Indeed, why not?