Gardens Alive! Revives the Paragon

The Industry had a Dose of Good News when it was reported last month that Gardens Alive! had purchased gifts cataloger The Paragon, which had closed when its parent company, BlueSky Brands, shut down in March.

So what does a gardening products merchant want with a gifts book? It’s one way to keep busy in the off season, says Gardens Alive! founder/president/CEO Niles Kinerk. “From October through December, we ship almost no horticultural product,” he says.

During this time the Lawrenceburg, IN-based merchant would have about 225,000 sq. ft. of unused warehouse capacity. Kinerk says his company used to help food mailer The Popcorn Factory by taking overflow calls in the fall.

But now Gardens Alive! has its own fall businesses in The Paragon and Bits and Pieces — another BlueSky Brands title the company acquired in May.

Bits and Pieces and Paragon had the same owner, even before BlueSky, Kinerk notes, and there was a lot of shared knowledge between the two. “As we looked at the history of them using each other’s lists with similar operations, we decided to make the [Paragon] deal.” While The Paragon Website was restarted in October, Kinerk won’t relaunch the print catalog until sometime next year. “The [Paragon ] brand is pretty damaged,” he says.

Gardens Alive! did in October reopen the 132,000 sq.-ft. distribution center in Westerly, RI, that once housed The Paragon and other catalogs of BlueSky Brands. That wasn’t originally part of the plan, Kinerk admits. What happened?

Steve Rowley, a semi-retired marketing consultant who served as CEO of The Paragon from 1998-2005, knew the facility — and workers — were sitting idle. He convinced Gardens Alive! to lease the space and reopen the DC, despite “the difference in costs as to operating there as opposed to the Midwest,” Kinerk says.

Gardens Alive!, which now has 10 catalogs, is counting on the newest members of the family to even out the cash flow, Kinerk says. And he’s betting on more opportunities for acquisitions: “It’s a tough time for an independent mid-range cataloger.”

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