DARIEN, Conn. — Kris Barker presides over the business his late father Keith Barker started 35 years ago in Darien.
A longtime member of the staff at Gardener's Center and Florist (1396 Post Road) recalled for Daily Voice how Kris started coming there when he was a "baby in a playpen."
"There’s something special about continuing to build on a multi-generational business," Barker said an interview via email.
The environment is laid-back and welcomes leisurely browsing, an experience bolstered by an occasional encounter with a pet. Four rescued cats, a couple of dogs and four birds in cages, some of whom customers had to give up, round out the menagerie.
Barker credits his accomplished staff for helping the operation run smoothly.
"We are incredibly lucky to have such a cohesive team working together to get the job done. Everyone is very talented and works well with one another to put the customer first. The reward is definitely looking around at one another after a crazy weekend and knowing that we nailed it," he said.
"The challenge is making sure we can accommodate all of our customers in an efficient manner during our busiest times. Our priority is top quality customer service. So, it can get really hectic during the peak of spring and the hustle and bustle of Christmas," Barker said.
The perks of being part of a second-generation business are the traditions, he said.
"There’s something special about continuing to build on a multigenerational business."
And what he said "may not seem obvious" is that despite the busy shopping season, now and in spring, "We have a lot of fun here," Barker said.
"We have ponds and waterfalls, and dogs, and cats, and birds. We even have a giant bear named Blue. I guess you could say we have a lot of mascots."
The center sells native, drought-tolerant plants, and organic landscape products, among a huge inventory.
The business employs a team of florists to work weddings, events, and for interior and exterior design projects.
What's changed in the business under his watch?
"We have been in business for over 35 years, so it’s hard to find ways to improve on a success story," said Barker.
Pressed to answer, he said, "We have definitely stepped our game up a bit. We are still the same great place you can come for any of your plant questions, except, now, we have a new look, a wider selection, and more services."