HIGHGATE CENTER — The Bessette family’s determination and dedication turned a small shed and tiny greenhouse into 20,000 square feet of greenhouses with shrub and tree nurseries, plus a big yellow barn to meet all their customer’s gardening needs.
The Bessette family began their business in 1994, and Heather Bessette said she thought of it as a way for her and her husband Brian to have a diversified business away from his family’s dairy farm.
“I was actually considering entering a master’s program for education because I was an art major at first thinking I wanted to teach art,” she said. “And we decided to try a little farming adventure on the side from dairy before I invested in that master’s.”
In 1994, they opened up a much smaller version of what is now H&B Greenhouse, consisting of a shed, a greenhouse and occasionally selling out of their truck at farmers stands. At the time, they were only selling annuals, a few perennials and vegetable transplants.
Heather explained that they grew by being willing to do their own work and not getting over their heads financially. Eventually, after years of hard work and dedication, Heather said she and Brian had enough of a client base for Brian to retire from dairy and work at the greenhouse full time.
As the business grew, they gained loyal customers from their high quality, long lasting plants.
“We don’t truck things in, and they perform better in the long run for our customers,” she said.
Of course the Bessettes did, and still do, face some challenges that come with running a greenhouse, like the unpredictable season outcomes.
“We’ve had a few good seasons with COVID,” she said. “With people at home, they’re doing more to their landscape, which benefits us, we sell a lot of products. But predicting how, for instance, next spring is going to be? Presumably everybody’s back at work.”
This makes keeping track of the seasonal trends much more difficult, and the Bessettes plan a year ahead of the actual season for everything to be ready in time. This has Heather creating lists beyond lists of plant options, prices and popularity.
The dynamic changes make running a greenhouse interesting, keeping the job from being repetitive or boring. This keeps Heather and Brian motivated to keep doing their passion for another decade, which Heather said is “well beyond the typical retirement age.”
When they do decide to retire, Heather feels confident that her son might take on H&B Greenhouse.
“We have one son who’s in, you know, working in the business, and I think that’s a pretty big accomplishment so that the business can go on in the future,” she said.