English Gardens Beginnings
English Gardens was founded in Dearborn Heights in 1954 by three brothers-in-law; John Darin, Andrew Donatiello, and Henry Vespa. They acquired English Gardens, which had one store on Ford Road and Outer Drive in Dearborn Heights, and were initially open nine months of the year.
The English Gardens stores gave the brothers-in-law a way to provide for their families. The three worked side-by-side growing the business and creating a reputation for selling quality products at a great value.
In 1968, they purchased the flower shop next door, adding a full-service floral department to what had become a year-round store. In the 1970s, they also began selling Christmas merchandise, including life-like and fresh-cut Christmas trees, lights, and decorations.
The original English Gardens store on Ford Road and Outer Drive is still open today and spans two blocks along Ford Road. Growth over the years has been steady. The founders continue a conservative approach to expansion, by listening to customers and the marketplace.
One of the founders, Andrew Donatiello retired from English Gardens in 1970. Mr. Vespa passed away in 1990. Mr. Darin passed away in early 2018.
In 1980, the company opened its second store in West Bloomfield, constructing a garden center with a greenhouse along the building’s front. Its location was selected based on the number of floral orders and deliveries that were coming from the area.
In 1985, a separate corporate office building opened in Dearborn Heights, along with a state-of-the-art floral design center which allowed the company to centralize many of its operations.
Plans for the third store began the following year. The Clinton Twp. store opened in 1987 on a 5-acre site. The store was built before much of the surrounding retail was developed. Today, nearly every retailer in the Metro Detroit area has a store along the M-59 corridor, representing both high end and discount offerings. That store expanded in 2005, when a 20,000-square-foot enclosed greenhouse structure was added to the building.
In 1988, English Gardens opened its full-service landscape department offering professional design and installation services. During the fourth quarter, the landscape company provides interior and exterior holiday decorating services. Holiday lighting clients include The Mall at Partridge Creek, The Village of Rochester Hills and the City of Royal Oak.
The company’s fourth store opened in 1994 in Eastpointe. English Gardens transformed a former Frank's Nursery & Crafts store into one of the area's premier garden centers. This new store was designed to accommodate the company's seasonal product offerings. The front of the store features four glass greenhouses, which have 15 roll-up doors that can be opened during the spring and summer, providing customers with an outdoor shopping experience.
English Gardens built its fifth store on a five-acre site in Royal Oak. The store was fashioned after the garden centers in Europe and features a 40-foot clock tower at store entrance. The all glass structure is highlighted with soaring 25-foot tall greenhouse atrium in center of store.
English Gardens Today
As the one-stop place for gardening tools, fertilizers and supplies, indoor and outdoor plants, flowers and landscape design, patio furniture and accessories, English Gardens is the "category killer" of lawn and garden.
Special services include a Garden Pharmacy, where associates diagnose plant troubles and provide solutions; as well as a Patio Furniture Design Center for custom orders. The Outdoor Living Department includes patio furniture and accessories, barbecue grills, and garden décor, such as fountains, statues, accessories and garden art. All stores, except Eastpointe, operate full-service floral departments providing custom- designed fresh and silk arrangements for events and all occasions, as well as a beautiful selection of fresh-cut flowers and greens with fresh shipments daily.
English Gardens employs more than 200 full-time people and 400 or more on a seasonal basis. Spring and Christmas are the busiest seasons. Mother’s Day and Christmas are peak holidays.
English Gardens has received numerous industry recognitions throughout its history. The company was named member of the year by the Michigan Green Industry Association in 2017. English Gardens was selected as the 2015 National IGC Retailer of the Year by IGC Magazine for notable leadership and innovation in the independent garden center industry. The award was established in memory of Dick Morey, founder of IGC Magazine and an advocate for the independent garden center sector. In 2003, English Gardens was named Retailer of the Year by the Michigan Floral Association.
The company is consistently voted THE BEST by readers of Hour magazine and The Detroit News.
Ten of the company’s 16 shareholders, who are the children and in-laws of Mr. Darin and Mr. Vespa, work in the company. They include:
- John Darin, President (Son of John & Phyllis Darin)
- Debbie Lowman, Chief Information Officer (Daughter of John & Phyllis Darin)
- Lynette Walker, Purchasing Manager (Daughter of John & Phyllis Darin)
- Dean Darin, vice President, Retail Operations and Merchandising Manager (Son of John & Phyllis Darin)
- Judy Darin, sales associate in Dearborn Heights floral department (Dean’s wife, daughter-in-law of John & Phyllis Darin)
- Bob Walker, Business to Business Development Manager (Lynette’s husband, son-in-law of John & Phyllis Darin)
- Kevin Lowman, Special Projects Manager (Debbie’s husband, son-in-law of John & Phyllis Darin)
- Frank Janosz, Vice President, Purchasing Live Goods (Son-in-law of the late Henry & the late Marie Vespa)
- Linda Vespa Yugovich, Vice President/Buyer (Daughter of the late Henry & the late Marie Vespa)
- Rick Vespa, Vice President, Purchasing Hard Goods, and President, English Gardens Landscape Company (Son of the late Henry & the late Marie Vespa)