Garden Glove

Penny Billingsley stands next to a sign that reads “You can bury a lot of troubles, digging in the dirt” at Garden Glove garden center in North Platte. She said, “It’s hard to find grouchy gardeners.”

Garden Glove started out as a home-based business with little equipment or supplies. Back then, “I landscaped out of my car” a Pontiac Grand Am,” said Penny Billingsley. That was in 2000. Now she and her husband, Randy, have a garden center at 1800 E. 12th St.

Penny said they want to be a “one-stop shop” where people can get gardening materials and arrange for “landscaping just they way they want it.”

Penny, who previously worked for First National Bank, got her start in landscaping with Jay Turnbull, a former Navy pilot who had a landscaping business here for several years. He has since moved to Colorado, where he manages a flight school. She maintained landscapes for some of his customers, and eventually he turned customers over to her. People would ask her about repairing their lawn sprinkler systems, so she started doing that, too.

Randy, who was a North Platte police officer at the time, would also replace sprinkler heads on his time off and that led to lawn sprinkler installation. In 2003 Randy left the police force to devote his time to the growing business.

In 2007 they set up shop at the current location, where “we had one greenhouse to grow annuals for (landscape) maintenance,” Penny said. They added the garden center in 2009. That “was not part of the original plan,” said Penny, but it has turned out well. Now they are about 55% landscaping and 45% retail, she said.

In the process, they help people learn gardening skills.

“We have a whole generation of people that have not been exposed to that,” she said. “It’s one of our greater challenges. ... We want to teach them how to plant a garden and be successful.”

Randy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2012 and was limited in what he could do. They could not find the help they needed to keep the irrigation part of the business going, so they discontinued that service.

Finding help to maintain landscapes for customers is difficult, too, especially considering that they are not able to offer the wages and benefits they would like to offer. “It has been really hard,” said Penny.

Randy has been in remission for six years. Now he has turned much of his attention to turning a couple of grain bins into a new coffee shop. It will take the place of a coffee kiosk, The Coffee Bin, they opened up in their parking lot in November 2016.

The grain bins were brought in from a farm south of Curtis. Along with a drive-through, the new shop will include a counter with breakfast and lunch food items.

“People will drive 20 miles” to get the coffee and flavorings they want, Randy said. Cars and semitrailer trucks visit the kiosk.

Miss Rodeo Nebraska 2019 Eva Oliver was seen driving up to the window in a pickup truck during Nebraskaland Days.

“I ordered one of their spark smoothies,” she said, and “they really helped with the early mornings that came with Nebraskaland Days.”

“Both businesses are fun,” Penny said.

“We haven’t thought too much” about eventually retiring, she said. They have no children and “I would love to hand (the business) down to employees.”

In the meantime, “we love what we do” and customers love to come to the business, she said.

“It’s hard to find grouchy gardeners,” she said.

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