Erie growers anticipate another great year in a pandemic-seeded gardening boom

Restaurants, stores, and other businesses lost customers and money and even closed permanently during the pandemic, but local garden centers have been growing their business.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more than 20 million Americans planted a vegetable garden for the first time, according to a survey by Alabama-based Bonnie Plants, a national supplier of vegetable and herb plants. Others planted their first flower gardens and trees. The result has been a home gardening boom.

"That's probably the biggest understatement of the last couple of years," said Josh Skarzenski, owner of Stan's Garden Center, with locations on Buffalo Road and West Ridge Road. "Last year was the biggest year in our history." The business was founded in 1954.

"And it's not just here but industry-wide. A number of owners have paid off their debt or been able to retire early," Skarzenski said. Garden center owners are optimistic for another good year this year. "From an owner's perspective, I put it all out there, as if I were playing cards at a casino," Skarzenski said. "I bet the farm on this year with more production by double-digit percentages than we have ever put out there before."

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