Business is blooming

Will Heeman behind the mask with pumpkins

Every spring, thousands across the Forest City travel to Heeman’s to begin their gardening journey. It’s a sensory experience unlike any other and a local tradition that goes back many decades. It’s also something that the family owned and operated business works hard to make just right. “Our mission is to be your happy place,” says Will Heeman, Chief Daymaker, at Heeman’s. “We take great pride in giving people an outlet to forget about their busy lives and focus on just being happy.”

Heeman’s switched from an in-store experience to curbside pickup in mid-March and remained that way until the beginning of June. This made it difficult to create that happy place without customers being able to touch and smell everything inside the greenhouse. But Will was even more concerned about his employees. “We changed from an experience to an online business in less than 48 hours. Our biggest concern was holding onto our staff and keeping them safe. We were fortunate not to lay off a single employee—in fact we added people to our team.”

The team worked longer hours than usual and faced many challenges during the spring and summer. Customer service and safety protocols had to be reimagined and supply shortages made the business unpredictable. But Will and the team were up for the challenge to create the happy place, even as demand spiked. “We were busier than ever—everyone used the pandemic as an opportunity to take on that garden project that they always wanted to do.”

The last half year has given Will a greater appreciation for his customers, who he says were gracious and understanding when Heeman’s switched to curbside pickup. When the greenhouse opened its doors at the beginning of June, a long lineup of people were waiting. Will was delighted to see one of his regular customers at the very front of the line after everyone decided to let her go by. The pandemic, he says, has taught us to look after and appreciate one another.

Will has learned some valuable lessons about running a business and managing people over the last six months. It’s also taught him to value the communities close to London, which he calls “small treasures”. Day trips and adventures have allowed him to spend time with his wife and keep a young toddler engaged. He’s glad to have his health and is looking forward to slowing down during the winter months.

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