Park Seed Company
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|Founded||1868 Libonia, Pennsylvania USA|
|Products||Seeds, plants, garden art, and accessories|
Park Seed Company is a privately held mail-order seed company based in Greenwood, South Carolina. As the name implies, Park Seed specializes in garden seeds, offering more than 1,100 varieties of flower, vegetable, and herb seeds, plus a large selection of bulbs, live plants, and gardening accessories. Park Seed Company distributes millions of catalogs every year and maintains an extensive Internet presence. In addition to the core Park Seed retail brand, Park Seed Company also comprises Wayside Gardens, Park Seed Wholesale and Park’s Landscapes. The 500 acre (2 km²) national headquarters site features 9 acres (36,000 m2) of gardens, including an All-America Selections trial ground, a Rose Garden, a container garden, and numerous other theme gardens.
Park Seed Company got its start in 1868 when 15-year-old George Watt Park decided to sell seeds he had harvested from his backyard garden in Libonia, Pennsylvania. Young George bought a hand press and printed a list of the seeds that he wanted to sell. In addition to circulating this list to friends and neighbors, he also bought an advertisement in The Rural American for $3.50. The ad resulted in $6.50 in seed orders. With this success, George Watt Park found his life's work.
Park Seed Company published its first small catalog in 1868. The book contained just 8 pages and used 2 illustrations—wood cuts of an aster and a pansy. In 1871, Park Seed initiated a monthly publication called The Floral Gazette. Definitely more magazine than catalog, The Floral Gazette offered its readers a forum for sharing gardening experiences and a seed exchange column that encouraged readers to trade seeds, bulbs and plants. It also carried a significant amount of advertising, including ads from other purveyors of seed. By 1877, the name had changed to Park’s Floral Magazine and circulation had grown to 20,000. By 1918, that figure hit 800,000.
The growing number of catalogs brought in ever-increasing numbers of orders, and by 1900, it was clear that the business had outgrown the small post office at Libonia. Park Seed Company moved to La Park (now Paradise), Pennsylvania in 1902.
In 1918, George Watt Park married Carol Mary Barratt, a young county home demonstration agent from South Carolina. Mary moved to La Park and became both a partner in the business and the mother of two sons: George Barratt Park and William John Park.
Eventually becoming fatigued with cold Pennsylvania winters, the Park family moved to Dunedin, Florida, and produced a catalog there in 1923. Unfortunately, while the family enjoyed Florida, the heat and humidity proved to be highly unsuitable for storing seeds. In looking for a better environment for the business, they settled on Mary’s hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina, and moved the business there in 1924.
For the first 25 years in Greenwood, Park Seed Company occupied a large old house. Then in 1950, they made a move to a more modern storefront location and entered the era of environmental control for seed quality.
Eventually, Park Seed obtained 500 acres (2 km²) on the northern edge of Greenwood, and designed and built there a total business complex to house the company’s offices, research facilities, seed storage and processing areas, temperature-controlled areas for storing plants and bulbs, computer facilities, mailorder department, and customer service facility, plus its catalog preparation area and a showroom and reception area for its rapidly growing wholesale division. The core buildings of this campus were completed in 1961. The company resides there today, continually expanding and renewing the complex to meet changing requirements.
In 1975, Wayside Gardens, a mail-order company in Mentor, Ohio, came on the market and was acquired by Park Seed. Wayside Gardens' product line of perennials, bulbs, trees, and shrubs was a good complement to Park Seed Company's seeds. Wayside Gardens was moved to the Greenwood, SC facility.
The Park family ran the company until 2005, when it was sold to Florida real estate executive Donald Hachenberger.
Park Seed Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on April 2, 2010 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
A federal bankruptcy judge accepted the offer from Blackstreet Capital after frenzied negotiations in the courtroom and hallway of a Columbia courthouse that drove the best bid up $4 million in four hours. Creditors were pleased with the offer from the Chevy Chase, Md., company that focuses on underperforming companies. But perhaps the happiest people were in Greenwood County, where Blackstreet agreed to keep the company's roughly 200 permanent employees on the payroll for at least three years. Park Seed is one of two Greenwood companies recently purchased by entities backed by Blackstreet, which was founded by Murry Gunty.
If the firm doesn't, it will have to pay $1.5 million in penalties split between the estate of company founder George W. Park, the state and the county.
The first offer to buy was just more than $1 million. But Neely said he realized Park Seed's good name and deep roots in South Carolina were worth a lot more. He recommended Blackstreet's bid over the slightly higher bid of Garden Alive because of the promise to keep jobs in Greenwood. The seed company is a community stalwart in the county of 70,000, where about one out of every eight people wanting to work is out of a job.
- Park Seed Company Archives
- "Park Seed to reorganize under bankruptcy protection.". The Greenville News. April 6, 2010.
- "Park Seed sold for $13M at Bankruptcy hearing".