Kim Gliha Mullen Runner Up For National Award

We are proud to share that our very own Kim Gliha Mullen, daughter of Kathy and Dennis Gliha and current co-owner with her brother, Shawn, was recently a runner-up for a nation-wide contest designed to recognize young business leaders in agriculture. 

The Young Retailer Award is given by Green Profit magazine to retailers under 35 who exemplify leadership, ingenuity, and flexibility. This year's question was "What can retailers do to strengthen their businesses to better withstand the impacts of major events like the Covid-19 pandemic?" Kim's response was direct and concise: you must learn to be as flexible as possible. At The Garden Barn we sometimes saw multiple policy changes in one day as a result of evolving information, and Kim and her family were at the heart of these decisions. She also stressed the need for communication between owners, employees, and customers to solve problems as a community. Kim writes, "By thinking hard and fast, staying positive, and working together as a team and carrying the willingness to change, I feel that our company and staff will only come out stronger in the end."

While these qualities have made Kim an extraordinary business leader, here at The Garden Barn we are even more in awe of her daily dedication and tireless determination. When so many companies and retailers in our industry were giving up (from lack of funds, difficulty finding supplies, the near impossibility of maintaining adequate stock), Kim showed her true colors by keeping on top of it all (sometimes working an excess of 100 hours a week!). We are grateful to Kim for all her efforts this year and every year, and are proud to call her our Boss-Lady.



To read the full article, including essays from the other runners-up and information about the award, click here.

Read Kim's insightful essay below:


Kimberly Gliha Mullen

Age: 34
Title: Co-owner
Operation: The Garden Barn Nursery & Landscape, Vernon, Connecticut

First and foremost, I would like to introduce myself and my company. My name is Kimberly Gliha Mullen, co-owner of the Garden Barn Nursery and Landscape in Vernon, Connecticut. The Garden Barn is a retail garden center that was purchased by my parents in 1981 and it has evolved dramatically in the last 39 years of business. My brother Shawn and I took over ownership of the business in January of 2018. The company sits on a sprawling 13-acre property with 8 acres of retail shopping space.

Being a part of the garden center industry, our family has always adapted to the many trials and tribulations we face each year. We are used to dealing with the inconsistency of Mother Nature that could make or break our busy season. We have had to adapt in order to keep our inventory alive and saleable to ensure that our customers receive the quality that we have always worked so hard to provide. We have adapted to labor turnover and so many other things over the years with the changes in demand. Adaptation in all industries is key, however, I think it is even more so in relation to agriculture.

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has taught me more about myself, our company, our employees and our consumers in only a few short (yet very long) weeks. COVID-19 has shown that a rapid change to our protocols is paramount and that the health and safety of our customers and employees must be the main priority. The circumstances of the current situation in our community and all over the world forced us to reflect on what we as a family and as a company should do in order to get our community to take the issues at hand seriously. We came to a decision to shut down retail operations for one week in order to come up with a safer and more efficient strategy to better serve our customers. We have implemented ways to require that our customers and staff respect and adhere to new protocols with great intensity, which has made us think outside of the box more than ever. Upon re-opening, there was no advertisement to the public in order to avoid high levels of traffic and we have been controlling the traffic flow by allowing slotted appointment times, FaceTime tours, using our outside cash registers and allowing only outdoor shopping.

It has been paramount for us to pay attention to news updates and how the crisis is affecting consumers and be prepared to change immediately. We adopted all safety measures required by our state, disinfecting all areas, wearing masks and gloves, and using tape to line the floors to remind customers to adhere to the 6-ft. social distancing rule. We have created a fluent curbside pick-up and small item, non-contact delivery service on top of our regular bulk material and plant material delivery options. The importance of our website had increased exponentially overnight as well—we have spent countless hours updating the website to provide our customers with our current inventory of all of the categories we sell. We had always wanted to provide all of this newly added information, however, we always made excuses and never made the time. We created an online order form on our website for customers to use to reduce the number of incoming phone calls. The website also includes endless photos to visually see the plants and products before they place an order. We have been using our social media accounts to give updates and post photos for customers to see our nursery stock and new items.

Communication between us as owners—owner to staff, staff to staff and staff to customer—has become key. As owners, we have had to plan as a team on how we were going to proceed each minute, each hour and each day. We then had to relay all of these procedures and changes to our staff who would in turn share with our customers. We have had to think and listen to what our consumers are asking for and buying. To keep spending at a minimum, it is imperative to focus on buying only those products. It has been vital to stay informed on the funds available from the federal and state governments, and our current lending office to be sure we can pay our vendors as much as we possibly can each week. During this pandemic it has also been necessary to talk as an industry. This communication with your vendors and sales representatives, other garden centers both bigger and smaller, and landscape companies will help provide with other thoughts to help everyone carry on as well as they possibly can.

After experiencing the repercussions of COVID-19, it is apparent that a company must learn to adapt and reform its normal procedures overnight if needed, or in some cases three times a day, in order to remain successful and serve its customers during a time of crisis. It is important to set a good example for staff members and the local community in order to keep those around us safe.

In conclusion, by thinking hard and fast, staying positive, working together as a team and carrying the willingness to change, I feel that our company and staff will only come out stronger in the end. As one of the owners, in any situation that mirrors the one we are living in today, my main concern will always consider the health of my employees, my customers and my family first. At the end of the day we must remember that we truly are “all in this together,” and god willing, may the world never experience a time like this again.