Greenhouse hits road to stay open
April 19, 2020
Surely you've seen it, the neon sign just below the sign for Traci's Greenhouse, flashing the date and time as well as other nuggets of information for those making their way along Clovis' Mabry Drive.
That neon sign is now dark, kind of a metaphor for these strange and scary times. But Traci's Greenhouse is still trying to brighten things up for its customers, just not at its usual location.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's order of April 7 forced small businesses like Traci's to close temporarily in an attempt to further contain the coronavirus. Deemed essential one day, non-essential the next, the businesses were left to shutter completely or scramble for an alternative.
Traci Franklin, owner of Traci's, chose the latter with the help of her husband Clay, taking advantage of Clovis' proximity to the Texas state line - where small businesses may remain open - by setting up a temporary location in Farwell right off of U.S. 60.
The new store area is so close to the state line that you can see the Texico post office from the dirt and gravel parking area.
The Farwell spot was not a Plan B the Franklins had all along, not an in-case-of-fire-break-glass fallback. They just reacted to what was happening.
"My husband spent 45 minutes with the (New Mexico) police trying to tell them, 'We sell feed, we sell livestock feed, we sell cattle feed, dog and cat food. So that's essential.' And they said we still had to stay closed," Traci Franklin recalled last week while doing work at the Clovis location.
"So my husband went immediately to Farwell and started looking for a spot to rent. He spoke to a guy, went and got our licenses from the city of Farwell. They were glad to have us, very receptive. And by Friday morning (April 10) I was ready to move, and we moved over there Friday afternoon.
"It was all just quick, quick, quick, because we wanted to keep going. This is our season, this is time to plant, and we had to act fast, had to keep going. ... I'm thankful for the customers that have welcomed us there."
Franklin has owned her greenhouse for eight years, spending the first five on North Prince Street before moving to Mabry Drive.
At the temporary Farwell spot, plants are displayed on the dirt and gravel drive immediately parallel to U.S. 60. There is a rustic building on the property where business can be transacted inside. Certainly not what Traci's Greenhouse loyalists who have strolled through her large store on Mabry are used to, but it will do just fine for now.
Improvising beats shuttering any day.
"It's been a little bit of a change, but it's not terrible," said Jordyn Stowe, a Traci's employee for a little over a year. "Instead of being in a store, just being on the side of the road, it's different. But it's good. What we have going on has been good to us."
Perhaps Stowe will one day run her own greenhouse. Currently a student at Clovis Community College, she hopes to eventually obtain a business degree. For now, though, she enjoys working for Traci's, wherever it is.
"Traci's a great boss," Stowe said. "I love my job, I love coming to work. Traci makes it fun."
And the customers make it special.
"They've supported this small business no matter what," Stowe said.
"There have been several of them that come up and they say, 'We found you. You can't run and hide from us; we found you.' And that just gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside, you know? Because it's those customers that make you believe that it's going to be OK."
Just a few weeks ago, that didn't seem like it was necessarily going to be the case. Gov. Lujan Grisham's order, though designed to protect New Mexico's residents, put the future of many small businesses in peril.
And Franklin was heartsick about it.
"I cried for my employees, I cried for my customers," she said, her face and voice clearly showing emotion.
The governor's order has rankled many small business owners, from those who sell furniture, clothes and jewelry to those who deal in liquor and hobbies.
Mo Bell, who owns a Clovis nursery, Bella Gardens, has said the order is particularly frustrating because it allows large national chains to stay open and sell many of the products sold by home-owned businesses that have been forced to close.
In an email response to The Eastern New Mexico News last week, Governor Lujan Grisham's office said via Press Secretary Nora Meyers Sackett:
"The state has not and will not discriminate against any size of business as we move aggressively to further limit travel outside the home in order to protect public health. There is no qualifier in the public health order as to the size of a business - local, smaller grocery stores are essential and remain open.
"Certainly businesses across the state are hurt, businesses of all sizes are hurt by this pandemic. More relevantly workers are devastated by the effects of this pandemic. It is a terrible reality. But at the end of the day public health is consideration number one."
Franklin said she knows the situation could be worse. At least she had the option of hitting the road.
"I feel for all businesses. We're just lucky that we can kind of keep going. It doesn't mean that just because you get to stay working that everything's fine. That's not the case," she said.
"We are truly all in this together. We didn't create this virus, but we have to learn how to cope and to live and to keep going."