Planting seeds of success : Dahlia Barn's Jerry and Aimee Sherrill grow their base, talk shop at Northwest Flower and Garden Show
February 21, 2012 · Updated 10:43 AM
Jerry Sherrill knows all about the beauty of a good bonus.
He and wife Aimee, owners of the Dahlia Barn in North Bend, entice passing shoppers at the big Northwest Flower and Garden Show with many colorful varieties, from Cornel to Kasasagi.
But the big draw, Jerry is pleased to note, is always the bonus bin.
Curious customers can’t help but try out a twofer. Having personally divided each dahlia tuber by hand, Jerry proudly says that each one—freebies included—is a keeper.
“Every one of these, I’ve bagged myself,” he said. “I can tell you there is an eye on every one.”
The Northwest Flower Garden Show, held February 8 to 12 at the Washington Convention Center in downtown Seattle, is the second largest in the country. It’s the only such show that the Dahlia Barn takes part in.
The Seattle expo is a great start to the season for retailers like the Sherrills. Besides talking shop with fellows in the business, they meet thousands of new customers, who the Sherrills say often wind up making the drive to North Bend.
“There’s a lot of future business that comes out of doing this show,” Jerry says.
The Dahlia Barn has been a fixture here for six years. Since that first visit, their humble 10-by-10-foot pegboard stall morphed into a modular 10-by-20-foot booth of red wood and corrugated metal, that happens to resemble a barn (and won the Sherrills a booth award). Seniority allowed the Sherrills to claim prime real estate by the main entrance to the show’s huge vendor hall.
“It’s a great area to be in,” Jerry said.
The Sherrills started their mail-order and retail dahlia growing business 10 years ago. Most of their plants are grown in Thorp, in Eastern Washington, on acreage the Sherrills purchased in 2007 to expand their operation. Their barn at Mount Si is in easy driving distance from core business in Seattle and the Eastside.
“It’s a labor of love,” Aimee says of their operation. “It’s like our third child.”
“If we look at our bloodline, our ancestors, there was farming involved,” Jerry said. “I find a real peace with that.”
With the change of seasons, the round of tasks for the Sherrills is constantly changing, too.
“You feel like you always have something to look forward to,” Jerry said.
During winter, the Sherrills retreat to the barn for months to prepare their product.
“By the time you get to this time of year, you’re dying to talk to people, share your product and sell it,” Jerry said. “Here at the show, you meet 100,000 people who are into what you’re doing. Even if they’re on the fence—that’s why you have a bonus bin.”
• The Dahlia Barn is open for dahlia tuber sales at the barn on weekends and April through May. Call or check the website for exact times. U-Cut gardens are open on weekends in September.