Step back in time at Apache Seeds Lim­ited

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - News - By Jerry Close and Ta­nia Mof­fat

Apache Seeds Lim­ited took root in the spring of 1958. Two vet­eran seeds­men, Frank Close and Leonard Vigneau, de­cided to open their gar­den cen­tre in the fast­grow­ing town of Jasper Place where, un­like neigh­bour­ing Ed­mon­ton, late night shop­ping was al­lowed all week.

The com­pany be­gan mod­estly, op­er­at­ing from a small rented space of ap­prox­i­mately 1,400 square feet. The owner’s con­nec­tions in the seed in­dus­try pro­vided the gar­den cen­tre with es­sen­tial core items and a buy­out of stock from a lo­cal gen­eral store gave the young com­pany an in­ven­tory of hard­ware items, paint and glass.

Ex­pan­sion came quickly and by 1964 they had built and moved into their own new build­ing. The rented space was con­verted into a small en­gine re­pair shop and Apache di­ver­si­fied into power equip­ment sales. (They were one of the first "Ski­doo" deal­ers in Ed­mon­ton.)

In try­ing to dis­cover the per­fect niche for them­selves, Frank and Leonard of­fered sev­eral atyp­i­cal gar­den cen­tre prod­ucts and ser­vices. These in­cluded the man­u­fac­ture of sweep­ing com­pound, skate sharp­en­ing, lot­tery ticket sales and win­dow and screen re­pairs, all of which even­tu­ally gave way to the wide scope of nurs­ery stock, seed, gar­den items and decor they of­fer to­day.

Hav­ing found their groove, the com­pany in­vested in fur­ther ex­pan­sion over the 1970s and 1980s. They in­creased their park­ing fa­cil­i­ties, their out­door dis­play area for plant ma­te­rial and their in­te­rior shop­ping space. By the 1990s, a small green­house was erected be­hind the store and the com­pany’s ware­house space was con­sol­i­dated on the same city block.

With the pas­sage of time, some of the te­dious work dis­ap­peared, like the un­en­joy­able task of un­load­ing fer­til­iz­ers out of box­cars by hand. The ad­vent of plas­tic cell packs re­moved the need to carve out in­di­vid­ual bed­ding plants from large wooden flats. The ware­house crew were over­joyed when a fork­lift be­came a per­ma­nent fix­ture.

Look­ing back over the years, there has been a plethora of odd­i­ties and dif­fer­ent mer­chan­dise cross­ing Apache's coun­ters. Relics and retro items such as the orig­i­nal Chia Pets, Gar­den Weasels, Flymo float­ing mow­ers and of course the ubiq­ui­tous plas­tic pink flamin­gos.

To­day, step­ping into Apache Seeds can, to many, feels like a step back in time. The retro sig­nage out­side the shop has not changed much, it still ad­ver­tises hard­ware items and paint, items they no longer carry. Part of the build­ing re­tains its orig­i­nal 1960s con­struc­tion with low, ex­posed, wooden beam ceil­ings adding to the nos­tal­gic feel for cus­tomers walk­ing through the door. In­side, shop­pers can still make their pur­chases at coun­ters the com­pany has used for decades, only now a mod­ern POS sys­tem re­places the old cash reg­is­ter.

While the build­ing may re­tain its historic am­biance to­day, Apache Seeds of­fers some of the new­est prod­ucts and trends on the mar­ket. Or­ganic op­tions for fer­til­iz­ers and pest con­trol are avail­able, along with a full range of plant prop­a­ga­tion sup­plies, gar­den tools, fer­til­iz­ers, soil amend­ments, wild bird feeds and feed­ers, decor items and of course seed.

Flower and veg­etable seeds were once care­fully pack­aged by hand and larger seed vol­umes were weighed out on bal­ance-beam and plat­form scales. And while Apache does have more mod­ern dig­i­tal scales in use, the com­pany has and uses what can only be de­scribed as an­ti­quated scales as well. One of them was used in the old City Mar­ket on what is now Churchill Square. Most seed pack­ag­ing is done in vol­ume by large firms nowa­days, and Apache dis­con­tin­ued

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