McDonald Garden Center

Plotting a path for years to come of family-owned success
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Elizabeth Towne

At 74 years old, Eddie Anderson, owner of McDonald Garden Center (MGC), still faithfully works at the Virginia-based plant dealer every day and has only missed seven spring seasons in his decades-long career. “I’ve always loved the plant business and I appreciate being able to get up every day and go do something I thoroughly enjoy,” he shares.

Just as Eddie devotedly comes to work every morning, MGC has been serving the residents of Hampton Roads, Va., for more than 69 years, offering a range of plants, including annuals, perennials, edibles, trees, shrubs, houseplants and garden accessories and trusted growing guidance and know-how.

Locally grown since 1945

Brothers John and Kenneth McDonald founded MCG in 1945 and Eddie and his wife, Sara, purchased the once 10-acre garden center in 1973 and began to bring new life to the company. “The nursery had an established name and history here in this community under the McDonalds for 23 years, but when my wife and I bought the retail site it was struggling,” recalls Eddie. “Fortunately, it was a good time for the garden center industry and we were able to pull things back together.”

With Eddie’s background running a garden business in Chicago, the couple began to grow MGC fairly rapidly, adding two year-round locations in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. “The area we cover wraps around the lower Chesapeake Bay and is called Hampton Roads,” describes Eddie. “Hampton is about 50 miles away from the heart of Virginia Beach, where our second location is. The third location is across the James River to the southwest and our stores form a nice triangle around the region.”

When the busy spring season approaches, MGC opens up smaller seasonal locations throughout the lower Chesapeake Bay area. “We have 120 employees year-round, but that number explodes up to 400 in the spring season,” adds Eddie.

An extension of the home

MGC’s retail-based business serves the coastal Virginia area with an extensive selection of top-quality perennials, annuals and fruit and vegetable plants, but beyond the walls of the garden center, McDonald Landscapes offers superior landscape design and installation. This branch of MGC delivers everything customers need to create a perfect outdoor retreat.

The company’s award-winning landscape design team, skilled craftsmen and horticulturists help customers turn their backyard visions into reality. McDonald Landscapes offers residential landscape design plans, on-site estimates by professional landscape designers, selection and installation of plant material, hardscape design and installations of everything from patios to walkways, driveways, fire pits and retaining walls, as well as pruning, edging, mulching and environmentally friendly landscape solutions.

“Our large selection, quality of our products and expertise of our staff sets us apart,” adds Eddie. “We have people on staff who genuinely love plants and building a connection with the local community and they’re passionate about it.”

Beautiful, sustainable backyards

From the perfect backyard getaway to the self-sustainable garden patch, MGC is the go-to retailer. Eddie says in recent years the company has seen an explosion in the fruit and vegetable plant market. “People are more interested in local products and growing their own produce because it gives them a little more control and a sense of pride by eating something they grew in their own backyard,” he explains.

“The seasonal garden market is still relatively new for us,” adds Eddie. “We didn’t really get into it until 2010, so this is MGC’s fourth season and we’re just getting it honed down to where it runs efficiently.”

With business booming in sustainable backyard gardening, Eddie says this sector is helping MGC overcome the past pitfalls of the recession and giving the company a leg up on big-box competition. “We’ve expanded our growing operation more than we have in the past,” he details. “We’re now growing a lot of different things and we’re highly specialized. MGC produces small quantities of things larger growers wouldn’t even look at and for us that’s a nice niche that gives us some exclusivity.”

Carrying on a family tradition

While Eddie still remains highly active in the growth and direction of MGC, he says nowadays, most of the work is up to his son, Mark Anderson, current president of MGC. After all, he was born to do it. “When we purchased the business, Mark was just three months old,” reveals Eddie.

Mark assumed an executive leadership role in 2012. “My dad does a lot of the visual merchandising and horticultural training,” shares Mark. “He creates beautiful displays with plants and lifestyle settings. And he’s working hard to teach us about what he has learned through his experiences. He has a passion for plants, especially houseplants and tropical plants. He is also very involved in the purchasing and production of our plants.”

That same passion has been the driving factor for nearly four decades for the Anderson family and is what has kept McDonald Garden Center going strong since 1973.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Campania International