Milands Garden Centre celebrates 30 years in business

Open Day this Saturday (6th)

Milands Garden Centre and Florist will celebrate 30 years in business with a fantastic open day this Saturday, May 6th in Mountbellew.

This week, proprietor Yvonne Miland, who runs the business with her husband and Castlerea native, John, told the Roscommon People how the business first came to be established in Mountbellew.

“We started in May 1993. There was an old garden centre here in Mountbellew that had been closed a number of years and we rented that for three years until 1996. Then in 1996 we bought a small site across the road. We built a small 20 foot by 30 foot shop and we sold flowers… and we had space out the back too where we sold plants from too”.

  The business idea stemmed from John’s background in horticulture while Yvonne’s experience in management and banking also proved beneficial.

“The banking experience for me was super because it helped with the paperwork and the financial side of the business. I loved the accountancy side of it,” she said.

Getting started proved quite difficult for the young couple with banks reluctant to take a chance on their fledgling business.

“We had to borrow all over the place to start off. We had to work seven days a week and long hours. You had to do that when you were starting off. But we had the love for it and still love coming in here in every day,” Yvonne said.

  “We started with just one member of staff – Linda, who I still think about. We always got on with everyone we worked with and we developed great relationships with our customers. We built it from there and we slowly progressed. It wasn’t long before we had more and more customers,” she said.

As the customer base grew so too did the shop and garden centre as Yvonne and John added extensions and new areas to their existing site.

“Every couple of years we added an extra bit here and there until 2017 when we built the shop that we are in now. By then we could see the giftware side of the business had become really big,” Yvonne explains.

The couple were helped over the years by their two now grown-up children, Aisling and Seán, as well as plenty of “wonderful” staff.

“Aisling is now in Australia and Seán is in Dublin but they worked with us since they were nine and ten. We’ve been so blessed with staff over the years; some of them have been with us for years too. We’ve been very lucky with who we’ve had working here. We wouldn’t be here without our staff,” Yvonne said.

While Covid-19 proved to be a very difficult time for most businesses, working with live plants brought added pressure.

“We experienced a boom following the Covid lockdowns. When the pandemic broke out it was a struggle. We weren’t long in the new shop and still had loans to pay back and all of a sudden we were shut,” Yvonne said.

“I know an awful lot of businesses were affected, but for garden centres in Ireland it was a really tough time. We had real living plants and we used to have to come up here during lockdown to water them and keep them alive”.

The partial lifting of lockdown in 2020 was welcome but with social distancing and travel restrictions still in place, it was still a struggle for some of Milands’ loyal customers.

“In May 2020 we were lucky that we were one of the first businesses to reopen and we were also blessed that people really needed to get out and about,” Yvonne said.

“One of the things I noticed during that time was how older people struggled with the lack of social interaction and the social distancing. They were really down about not being able to visit friends and family.

“I used to say to customers that they didn’t have to buy anything but that they could come and sit in our garden furniture out the back and meet friends and neighbours”.

Milands’ loyal customer base comes from across Galway, Roscommon and Mayo and as far away as Ennis in Co. Clare.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere here but also in the middle of everything. We have had sales reps who just couldn’t fathom how we are so busy all the time,” Yvonne said.

“We are very lucky to have loyal customers from such a big catchment area. We have the coffee shop here, a flower shop, and a gift shop. I suppose people see it as more of a  lifestyle centre now and they can come and spend the day here”.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Milands will celebrate their 30th anniversary (May 6th) with an open day at the garden centre. It will also be an opportunity for Yvonne and John to give back to those who have supported the business over the last number of years.

“We’re going to be giving a huge amount of offers away on the day and there will also be some light refreshments. We’ll have Galway Bay FM here for the day and we will also have a magician who’ll put on a magic show, and arts and crafts for the children. Ann McKeon, landscape architect, will also be giving a talk on the day. There will be something for every age group on the day and we look forward to seeing everyone,” Yvonne concluded.