Bottomley Evergreens & Farms
Bottomley Evergreens & Farms (BEF) is a multi-generational family business based in Glade Creek, North Carolina. It began in 1980, when Mitchell Bottomley began working with his grandfather, Bunk Roten, tying Christmas garlands in the basement from evergreen boughs to earn some money for the holiday.
When Bunk passed away in 1990, Mitchell decided to honor his memory with a new business. Working alongside both his father and brother, Blan and Kelly Bottomley, respectively, the young entrepreneur turned a family cottage business into a major supplier of Christmas greenery.
Over the years, BEF has grown significantly. The family farm now grows 5,000 acres of Christmas trees and produce, including Fraser Firs, White Pines, Boxwoods, cabbage and pumpkins. The company is now the largest supplier of Christmas greenery in the United States. The company operates on a strong commitment to quality products and lasting relationships. BEF sells products wholesale to retailers year round, with a spike in the wintertime for holiday décor.
A family business
In 2013, Paul Demmink joined the company as CFO. He oversees the financial end of the business, while the Bottomley family takes care of growing and production. The management team oversees a staff of 120 full-time employees, although the staff grows significantly during the production season. From September to the second week of December, BEF employs as many as 800 people, creating traditional Christmas trimmings, such as garland, wreaths, centerpieces and bouquets.
“What sets us apart as a business is the quality of our products,” Paul explains. “It is part of our culture and a philosophy the Bottomley family lives by. Our employees take great pride in their work and provide top-notch customer service.”
Of course, the operation would be nothing without key facilities and procedures. The business is consistently growing 160 acres of cabbage, 1,500 acres of pumpkins and 800 acres of corn. Crops make up approximately 25 percent of product, while evergreens take care of the remaining 75 percent.
To process, store and ship all of these products, the company needs a lot of room. Outside of the farm, BEF has a 190,000-square-foot distribution center in Sparta, North Carolina, with coolers for storage. The company also has additional production and shipping centers in Virginia and North Carolina, with approximately 350,000 square feet of cold storage.
While produce and evergreen products are the primary function of the business, the family also operates Bottomley Enterprises, a full-service trucking company separate from the farm.
“We don’t ship our own product,” Paul notes. “We use common carriers and we ship for other businesses with our fleet of 36 tractors and 68 trailers.”
BEF is a leader in the holiday décor niche market and continues to grow. After nearly 25 years in business, the company has gained the experience to maintain steady margins, focusing on quality while performing marginal damage control when markets turn.
The evergreen end of the business has held strong, although weather patterns over the last year affected other crops. “Weather is always an issue and it is just something that is out of our control,” Paul explains. “In 2013, there was too much rain. We lost a lot of cabbage and pumpkins.”
Meanwhile, demand for evergreen products continues to grow. The company’s natural wreaths, garlands, centerpieces and other décor products are picking up steam. Industry trends are driving consumers to more natural products, which spans beyond food and into decorations. The company’s evergreen selection offers the classic look of traditional Christmas decoration and customers continue to favor these boughs throughout the United States.
This continued growth presents its own set of challenges. Over the years, the Bottomley family has been working hard just to keep up. As the company expands, BEF requires a larger labor force and the infrastructure to accommodate it. Many of BEF’s agricultural employees come from local Latino communities. In order to compensate well and improve convenience for employees, the company provides housing for workers.
In order to track resources, balance margins and better manage the growing business, BEF recently installed a new enterprise resource planning software (ERP). This upgrade will keep better tabs on all aspects of operations, allowing the Bottomley family to practice steady and sustainable growth in the coming years.
The recent explosion in business has all been positive, although Paul says in the future, the family is hoping for a more controlled approach. “We are looking closely at our infrastructure,” he elaborates. “We want to grow at a more calculated rate in the future.”
With new systems in place, Bottomley Evergreens and Farms is poised to increase production and reach an expanding customer base over the coming years.