The Lake of Bays Garden Centre is all about roots, including those on the thousands of plants in the garden centre and the family roots that owners/operators Linda Boothby and her daughter and son, Emily and Tom Keown, have firmly planted in the Dwight community.
The garden centre celebrates its 20th year in business this year. Until recently it was known as the Dwight Garden Centre, when it began with Boothby selling annual plants and bags of soil off a flatbed on the side of the road on Hwy 60. The iconic red truck still runs and even does some work occasionally. But it has earned the reward of being mostly retired as it sits and welcomes customers at the entrance of the garden centre, often decked out to match the current season.
Through hard work and the loyal support of customers and a knowledgeable staff—some of whom have been with Linda since the beginning—the roadside stand now occupies an eye-popping eight acres. It’s comprised of two greenhouses and a 2,400 square-foot building that acts as the garden centre hub as well as a home decor and fashion store and florist. Some owners might be happy to sit back once their business is established, but as anyone visiting the busy enterprise knows, you can almost always find Linda working outside and getting her hands dirty.
The garden centre is housed in a pretty, rambling building with a welcoming front porch filled with cottage signs, garden decor items, bird feeders, Muskoka chairs, and anything that may not fit inside. Once customers have perused the many delights of the veranda, it’s time to go inside to seek advice or pick up a gift basket, jewellery, giftware, a gardening book, or to ask about one of the myriad services the centre provides for contractors and home or cottage owners. The garden centre is open year round and it opens early every day to serve local contractors’ unique needs. They will also deliver anything they sell, which has become a very popular service.
Watching their mom build something from nothing, Linda’s children were inspired by her work ethic. In the early days, when Linda secured a contract to supply firewood to Algonquin Park for five years, the kids helped Linda and a small group of employees to deliver an astounding 40,000 bags of firewood into Algonquin from early spring to late fall.
Today Tom and Emily have branched off into Five Points Landscaping and Property Maintenance, which is a perfect complement to the garden centre. Linda’s big sister Donna Clark Ratz says, “Linda has always had a strong bond with her two children, so to have them involved and interested brings her a lot of happiness.”
There are certain names in Dwight that locals and cottagers all know: the Cunningtons, the Keowns and the Boothbys; Linda, Tom and Emily have ties to all three of them. But just as people know the family, the family knows the community, with all of its strengths and quirks. They know which trees, shrubs, and plants will do well given the climate and the soil conditions and they know what doesn’t have a chance of making it. They love sharing that knowledge with their loyal and long-standing client base and their customers feel a sense of pride in helping the business to grow.
Donna shares that growing up, her family called Linda by the nickname ‘Din’. Today, the popular garden centre chip truck named Din’s pays homage to the baby of the family.
Donna affectionately describes herself as “one of Linda’s biggest fans.” She recalls, “Years ago on a whim, we decided to go to the city to Canada Blooms, which is Canada’s largest garden and flower festival.” Their mom had a wonderful organic vegetable garden but none of her children, Linda, Donna or equally supportive middle sister Anne, were gardeners. “It took me a little by surprise when Linda turned to me and said ‘I could open a garden centre’ as we sat through a talk by a gardening expert guest speaker. The rest is history.”
Lake of Bays Garden Centre has a strong, vibrant, and active social media presence. Judging by the glowing comments from satisfied customers near and far, it isn’t the least bit difficult to imagine that the centre will maintain its status as an icon of the Dwight community and will still be going strong in another 20 years.
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