Lakeland Yard and Garden
by Susan Marquez
Forty years is a long time to do anything, especially running the same business in the same place. That’s exactly what Steve Zischke has done with the business he started in March 1980. Lakeland Yard and Garden Center has served customers in Central Mississippi and beyond for forty years, providing top quality plant materials and supplies to make outdoor spaces special for both professional landscapers and backyard gardeners.
After working in the nursery business as a manager of a retail operation for nine years, Steve decided he was ready to take the leap to open his own garden center. “It really was a leap of faith for me and my wife,” he says. “We took some fairly significant financial risks, including taking a second mortgage out on our home.” Steve purchased two and a half acres on Lakeland Drive and started building the center in the summer of 1979. He opened the doors the next March, just in time for spring planting season.
“I had a vision, and I knew I was taking a risk, but I felt confident that people would come if I offered a good selection of quality plants. I knew it would be a good location, because it was fairly easy for folks from all parts of the tri-county area to navigate Lakeland Drive.” Of course, the Lakeland Drive corridor wasn’t nearly as developed forty years ago as it is now. The development along Lakeland has only brought more attention to the business, which has grown along with the area. “We continually purchased more land around us over the years, and today our business sits on over twenty acres.”
Steve’s vision was a good one, as the business has experienced sales increases each year. “We started off strong, and we’ve continued to grow each year,” says Steve. “Last year was a record year for us.” The business has built a solid reputation, drawing loyal customers from around the state. “We have several customers from the Delta and South Mississippi. And of course, we draw from all over the Metro area, not to mention the hundreds of professional landscapers who buy from us. I think that’s because we have the best selection of any garden center in the state, and our staff is extremely knowledgeable.”
Many of the staff members at Lakeland Yard and Garden have been with the business for over thirty years. “Finding new people who have that same passion and desire to learn has always been a challenge, but when we find the right person, we do all we can to make sure they stay with us. Our customers have come to depend on their knowledge to help guide them in their decisions.”
To keep the plants looking fresh, Steve says there is a fast turnover. “We want to ensure our customers get the freshest plant materials possible.” Enhancing the shopping experience for customers is also important to Steve, who says the business is always adding new things to make shopping easier. “We try to make this a pleasant place to shop. In addition to the experience, we offer quality plants at a good price, along with great customer service, including loading plants into customers’ vehicles. We try to keep things as efficient as possible, providing help if needed from the moment customers come in our door.”
There have been a few challenges over the years, including the flooding of the lower nursery in 1983 and a tornado that did $50,000 in damage. “We now have a levee system surrounding the business,” says Steve. The nursery business is somewhat seasonal, even in the mild climate found in Rankin County. “We are still a year-round business,” Steve says. “Typically, August and January are relatively slow, but we always have a lot to do throughout the year to get ready for the next season. We have to keep our infrastructure up and keep everything in good repair. We also work to enhance our displays to make the products look good.”
Steve says he is driven by his desire to be the best in the business. “I want people to know that Lakeland Yard and Garden is the best garden center they can find.” Customers have already proven that with their repeat business, and the readers of Mississippi Magazine, the Clarion-Ledger and the Jackson Free Press have all voted Lakeland Yard and Garden as the number one garden center in the area. “That’s certainly a good affirmation that we are doing something right,” says Steve. “I love going to work every day, and if the customers are happy, I'm happy."