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Meet the Staff - Hill Country Water Gardens
Steve Kainer, owner of Hill Country Water Gardens, a water garden nursery and supply business in Cedar Park, says that "Since September 11, people aren't traveling as much, but they are taking care of their homes.
They are looking for peace and serenity and water gardens offer that."
While some people look at a pond and experience peace and serenity, others cringe at what they assume is a high maintenance nightmare.
However, the reality of water gardening is really quite different- if the pond is properly installed and well sited, a few minutes of care a week should result in clear water and a balanced system.
"Seventy percent of our customers install their own ponds," says Kainer
, "we encourage them to use the rubber liners, but we have a lot of customers who've purchased those little pre-formed ponds at a discount store.
"They're my personal favorites," says Kainer
, They are extremely prolific, very fragrant, and the colors are amazing- purples, blues, magentas, and hot reds."
The fish used in water gardens also tend to fall into two camps- koi, which are actually a form of carp, and the many different forms of goldfish.
Koi are highly prized for their impressive size and spectacular colors.
The down side to koi is that they need more space and often develop a taste for the plants in the pond.
Goldfish are a very popular choice for their ease of care.
"They don't need a deep pond and can handle both the heat and cold of Texas very well," says Kainer
Steve Kainer : General ...
Steve Kainer : General Manager
Meet The Staff | Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery
Steve Kainer I just came to the realization that I've spent about 3/4 of my life in or around aquatic life.
Hill Country Water Gardens Sells the Splash | Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery
Steve Kainer did it backward.
Backward, at least, compared to the way most retailers get into water gardening.
Kainer is owner of Hill Country Water Gardens, which opened 12 years ago a few miles outside of Austin, Texas, as a small business focused almost solely on water gardening.
knows exactly what his
higher-end market demographic is looking for.
likes to see new fountains in person before he
Hill Country sticks with four primary vendors - Henri Studio
, Unique Stone, Massarellis' and Campania - for most of its SKUs.
Once Kainer and operations manager Christopher Howell have identified what they like at the shows, they do a lot of catalog buying in January, as well as during the season.
also gets much better terms by placing earlier orders.
"We're probably able to reorder a couple of times before payment is due on the first orders," he
Hill Country's primary vendors account for about 70 percent of its purchases.
also likes to try out fountains from other vendors to fill out the rest of his
It's definitely a trial and error process, however.
"We see other fountains we like, but if the plumbing assemblies aren't good, or it's difficult to get parts or they don't go together easily it can be a problem," he
"It's got to be something that's easy for two or three seasonal employees to set up and put together in 10 to 15 minutes."
It's also important to make sure the vendors have good molds for their products, Kainer
"It's not worth spending an hour trying to level a piece to set it up.
When that happens, we let them know we're going to find a new vendor, and we don't buy from them anymore."
Statuary and garden art are great complementary products to the fountains.
goal with the artwork is to find pieces that both accent his
fountains and nursery stock, and also offer Hill Country
the opportunity to differentiate itself by offering unique merchandise.
Like many garden retailers, Kainer
does a lot of buying at the markets in Atlanta.
Dallas and Chicago.
also goes to auctions looking for interesting pieces to sell or use in displays, and works with the thriving artist community in Austin to come up with items you won't find anywhere else.
While Hill Country's
local market tends to be on the higher end - they weren't impacted by the economic downturn quite as much as some areas on the country - Kainer
and Howell have consciously changed the value of their fountain product mix.
I'm going to bring in a few more big pieces this year just for a change of pace, but I think we're going to to stick to that trend for now," Kainer
2 - Displays and Merchandising
Getting the right product on site is just the first step.
What really moves the fountains and statuary, Kainer
says, is creating a setting for the pieces that customers can picture in their own backyards.
For Hill Country
, that means great displays with a premium on cross merchandising product.
You'll find statuary on nursery benches, and beautiful plants used liberally in fountaina dn are displays throughout the grounds.
"Our nursery manager is happy to let up put statuary on the nursery tables with teh plants," Kainer
I've never heard a customer complain about it, thought," Kainer
Nothing stays the same for long on the Hill Country grounds.
Displays change often - once a week or more - to continually entice and inspire customers.
Much of that work is handled not by Kainer
or Howell, but by the rest of the staff.
has built a creative - and fairly unique - team over the years.
Great displays and branded products help set the table for a sale, but Kainer
says the final step is having his
staff well-trained and completely up to date on all the product.
and Howell hold meetings each Saturady morning starting in February to run through new products with the staff.
says one thing that has allowed Hill Country
to be so successful with cast fountains and cast stone planters is having an installation crew.
"It's probably the biggest issue with fountains," Kainer
3 Ways to Sell Fountains - Hill Country Water Gardens owner Steve Kainer offers there quick ideas to help you move more product in the fountain, statuary and garden art categories.