Armstrong Garden Centers, a 34-unit chain based in California, has purchased 16 stores belonging to Pike Family Nurseries, the Atlanta retailer that filed for Chapter 11 protection three months ago. The $5.2 million sale, approved by a federal bankruptcy judge in the Northern District of Georgia on March 2, will combine the industry’s two largest chains of independent garden centers.
Other pieces of Pike Nurseries were carried off following a February 26 auction. Skinner Nurseries successfully bid $1 million for store inventory and the Geo. Schofield Co. purchased hardscape materials from one of Pike’s wholesale divisions. Gary Pike, a son of founder William Pike, paid $490,000 for inventory and a lease connected to another wholesale operation.
The Armstrong acquisition includes 15 units in metro Atlanta and one store in Charlotte, N.C. Armstrong also retains the rights to the Pike Nursery name, an institution among Atlanta gardeners.
“The opportunity was too great to pass up,” Mike Kunce, Armstrong’s president and CEO, told HCN. Kunce said he is moving his family to Atlanta, where he will serve as general manager of the Pikestores. He will continue to oversee both chains, although Monte Enright, executive vp, will run the day-to-day operations at Armstrong.
“Pike has not been run for several years by hands-on management from our industry,” Kunce observed.
Founded by William Pike in 1958, the company had, at one time, 26 retail locations and several wholesale divisions, including a growing operation, a commercial division, an interior houseplant wholesale division, three stone and aquatic centers, and the Pike Design Group, an installation service provider.
In 2003, the company reported $100 million in sales. The following year, Pike Family Nurseries sold a majority interest to Roark Capital Group, a private equity group also based in Atlanta, saying it wanted more access to capital in order to expand. Randy Pike, another son of the company founder, was named as president and CEO. Pike Nurseries built two more stores in Atlanta and began exploring opportunities beyond the Georgia border. In 2004, the company opened a new store in Birmingham, Ala. A Charlotte, N.C., store soon followed.
But a historic drought in the Atlanta, water restrictions, and the housing slump severely impacted sales. On Nov. 14, 2007, Pike Family Nurseries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, saying it owed $5.6 million to more than 20 la