Sawyer Garden Center a holiday hotspot

Published 11:32 am Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A customer shops in the greenhouse at Sawyer Home and Garden Center in Sawyer, Mich. Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

A customer shops in the greenhouse at Sawyer Home and Garden Center in Sawyer, Mich. Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

Most of the leaves have fallen, and there is little green left to be found in Southwest Michigan, but the dreariness of winter will quickly fade away for those who visit the Sawyer Home & Garden Center. There, customers are greeted by the bright reds and greens of Christmas, the jingle of bells, the twittering of birds and the scent of freshly-cut pine.

“This is a wonderland, isn’t it?” exclaimed Linda Patejdl, co-owner of the home and garden store in Sawyer.

“I just came back last week from Europe, trying to find the most unique things, and all the Christmas places we were in — from Amsterdam, through Germany, France, to Switzerland — they don’t have anything on us for Christmas decorations,” Patejdl said. “Of course, Europe is known for their big Christmas displays, and we’re right up there.”

Patejdl and her husband, Barry, have been hard at work, growing and expanding the home and garden store located at 5865 Sawyer Road. In business for more than 20 years, they employ between 20 and 60 people depending upon the season.

Sawyer Home & Garden Center is definitely a family business.

“In our business, we have two children. Our son is the nursery manager and landscape contractor. Our daughter is the general manager of the store,” Patejdl said. “My granddaughter is our IT person. My grandson helps my husband run the store and buy the produce, as well as delivering, setting up, and moving things around. So that’s the core family that all works here,”

They also employ many experts available to provide information requested by customers.

“On our staff, we have a bird expert who can answer any question anyone might have. We’ll bring in bird experts for seminars as well,” Patejdl said. “We have fertilizer experts. We all go to the different fertilizer classes.”

Among their many specialists is Wendell Adair, their wine buyer, who has helped them acquire 450 different wines from all over the world, including many Michigan wines such as those produced by Domaine Berrien Cellars and White Pine Winery. Wine selections are accompanied by information cards, and Adair is also available to help customers choose the wines that will best suit their tastes.

Wine tastings are held every week from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and from 12 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The store also includes a variety of other sections where the owners say that customers can find a gift for anyone on their Christmas gift list. Separate areas in the store are devoted to bath and body products, gourmet foods and fresh produce, holiday decorations, kitchen gadgets, fine candles, costume jewelry and gardening tools. The Patejdls even added boutique-style apparel to their inventory this year.

“This is the first Christmas with this here — our boutique. Of course, we sell Michigan-themed items. We have some of the girls that do the buying here. I can’t believe how well they’ve done! And this has just gone crazy with unique, different things,” Patejdl said. “Purses, scarves are big, and they have some small designers that you won’t find anywhere else. Everyone always wants something different.”

Outside, customers will find 450 freshly-cut Christmas trees, each with its own individual name, like “Betty Boop,” “Goofy” and “Alvin.” In the greenhouse, Sawyer Home & Garden Center offers traditional Christmas favorites like poinsettias and Christmas cacti, as well as unusual plants including ornamental flowering cabbages, rosemary topiaries and cyclamen in a variety of colors.

The highlight of the Christmas season at Sawyer Home & Garden Center is their Christmas open house, which will be on Dec. 6-8, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.

“For the open house, we’re going to have lots of sales,” Patejdl said. “That’ll probably be like our ‘Black Friday,’ and we’ll have some give-a-ways. We’ll give away a faux Christmas tree. There’s food baskets. There’s bath and body baskets, and we collect email address, put them in a hat, and then we have drawings. And then we’ll call. Everybody likes to win something!”

The open house will emphasize the wide variety of both European and locally-produced treats that Sawyer Home & Garden Center carries.

“There will be foods all throughout the store, even in the greenhouse. Different vendors will come in to sample their products. You can pretty much graze your way through the whole store,” Patejdl said. “We will have different punches and different flavors of coffee available.”

A list of their sales and the vendors who will be offering demonstrations and tastings will be available at

And, once Christmas has passed, the special events will continue. January will be Soup Month. In February, there will be the Chocolate Classic. March is Cheese & Cracker Month, and April features “Embrace Breakfast in Bed.”

Patejdl wants potential customers to know that, just because Sawyer Home & Garden Center is a local, family-owned garden store, that does not mean that their prices are higher than some of their nationally-known competitors.

“As a home and garden showplace division of True Value Hardware stores — they have about 200 destination garden centers across the U.S. — it’s a buying group, a co-op company. We can offer things at a reasonable price,” Patejdl said. “Our hoses and rakes aren’t any more expensive than at a big box store. A lot of people have a misconception that independent costs more. And then, along with that, you’ll get information here. There’s always somebody here who’s used or tasted everything in the store.”

In addition to unique items and reasonable prices, the owners contend, Sawyer Home & Garden Center also offers convenient hours.

“We are only closed on Christmas Day. We’re in an area where people come on the weekends and holidays, and they want to shop. So that’s why we stay open. We’re here to take care of the customers in the area,” Patejdl said. “We’ll be open until 8 o’clock on Christmas Eve. Everybody needs something!”

“You can run in here just to get a gallon of milk, or you could spend hours here,” Patejdl said. “It’s all about making a customer comfortable and giving them an experience, and that’s what we try to do. And, you don’t get that at a big box store.”