Sunday, October 1, 2023

Toilet paper and sangria? Here’s how some garden centers, home improvement stores are adapting during the coronavirus

Spring is a busy time of year for garden centers and home improvement stores.

While the coronavirus has promoted social distancing and isolation, these essential businesses continue to adapt to their customers needs.


Melissa Blanchette is the co-owner of Anderson’s, a family-run garden center, restaurant, gift shop and boutique with two locations in Newport News and Virginia Beach.

She said they recently created an “essential market” for their customers, placing a couple coolers filled with packaged restaurant items including their famous chicken salad by the pound, drinks specials like sangria and of course, cleaning supplies such as toilet paper, paper towels and Clorox –––right near the checkout line.

“So you know trying to think of things that will be helpful,” she said of the change.

Spring is always Anderson’s busiest time for annuals and mulch but now other items besides flowering plants and hanging baskets are going out to the door, too.

“I would say we have seen a major surge in fruits and veggies,” she said, adding customers are buying both plants and seeds. “All these people have time now…they can plant that vegetable garden they always thought about.”

While the garden center has retained a majority of its staff, Blanchette said the restaurant workers were laid off. She added the business has applied for the payroll loan and are collecting tips for the laid off employees at restaurant checkout.

Anderson’s has also turned to social media, using Facebook Live to showcase the business from virtual tours of the greenhouses and nurseries to boutique items like high end jewelry lines.

“We’re just trying new things, roll with the punches,” Blanchette said. “We’re hoping that we are a place that is more of an alternative to the big box places that will still be filled with people.”

“We are a quieter option and we do have a lot of outdoor shopping space,” she added.

Anderson’s is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Online ordering, curbside pickup and delivering options are available. The business is currently hiring for cashiers and eventually, restaurant and greenhouse workers.

Home improvement

Ace Peninsula Hardware, another family-owned business on the Peninsula, has also provided customers with essential items.

“Initially what we’ve done when this whole pandemic started is made sure our employees and customers stayed safe,” said Kevin Deaver, co-owner.

The stores installed sneeze guards, placed social distancing markers at checkout and gave all their employees mask and gloves.

Some employees have chosen to stay home and while their jobs are still there once the coronavirus is over, Deaver said they are hiring more staff.

Ace recently donated 200 N95 masks to Riverside Hospital and 100 masks to Sentara Williamsburg Regional Center. They plan to donate another 100 masks to Sentara this week.

While customers are still looking for the same things like masks, gloves, sanitizing items and toilet paper, Deaver said people have also been buying home improvement products.

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“Painting stuff, lawn and garden stuff are probably the two biggest things,” he said. “You know people are stuck at their house right now..they’ve got time to do things and many of it is essential.”

Some customers are also doing plumbing projects such as sink repair, Deaver added.

Ace Peninsula Hardware is operating during normal business hours and all six locations offer online, in-store or curbside pick up. The company is hiring ales associates in their Hampton, Newport News and Grafton locations.


Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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