On January 2, 1985, a seed was planted into the soil of Huntsville; what started as a small garden facility in the 1980s has bloomed into Kim’s Home and Garden. In order to keep up with this constantly changing industry, Kim Stewart Bius and her staff transform their store every two years. “As time has evolved, the customers have decided their outdoor living space is just as important as their indoor living space,” says Kim. “In the South, you have an entire culture of outdoor living. It’s not about planting a few petunias, or buying a few geraniums or tomato starters. It is about the whole ambiance, the style.” A full design department works alongside a commercial and residential landscape department to fashion the visions which the customers dream. “We are the folks you come to when you want to create something really special.”
Although 40-45% of Kim’s customers live in the Huntsville area, she provides her horticultural services to many in surrounding areas such as Montgomery, Willis, Bryan/College Station, Centerville, and Livingston (anywhere within a 45 minute to hour radius). Kim and her wonderful staff offer many special services, including seminars. If a garden club wishes to learn more about a certain subject, and they have 20-25 people confirmed to attend, then this thriving business sets to work. The setup includes coffee, gourmet food samples, and an ambience of fun and knowledge. “In order to offer whatever the customer is looking for, you have to differentiate yourself completely from the box stores.” Although the store only sits on two acres, every inch of the space is utilized. “We use it three-dimensionally, too—up, down, sideways. Any way we can place everything into two acres, we make it work,” Kim quipped as she talked about her location.
Most of Kim’s employees, who have completed degrees in higher education, have chosen to work here as a second career. Whether it is the skeletal crew of eight during the winter season or up to 32 during the busy months, “This is what they love doing!” Landscape Designer/Estimator Jackie Cullens, who started out as general manager 13 years ago, handles the residential accounts, while Kim oversees the commercial and estate arrangements. Customers also may be greeted with a smile by sales associate Timmy Abernathy, who has been with the company over eight years. “We are like a wagon wheel. All of us are a spoke. Without those spokes in place, we don’t do as well,” Kim said of all her employees. Members of her staff are not simply Master Gardeners who have completed a six-week course designed for laymen to learn more than just the basics of gardening—they are Texas Certified Nursery Professionals.
The retail division of this service industry is divided into two main categories: the Home Center and the Garden Center. Landscape supplies, residential gardens, and plants, which include fertilizer etc., create the list under the Garden category; home décor, gifts, foods, and holiday items complete the Home list. Kim and her crew stay informed and ahead of the trends. They grow and change, constantly working with over 700 vendors per year to provide people in our area with new and exciting ways to enjoy their living space. “We are always roaming the territory looking for what’s new, what’s hot, what’s the latest. What are the colors for this year? What are the textures?” Kim comments that she is a “buyer with design on her mind…We try to watch the trends before they come in.”
Kim’s transforms into a Christmas store during the holidays. A customer can snack on Christmas cookies and wassail while shopping for some of Huntsville’s greatest gems. Gourmet foods are available, and on certain afternoons, wine is served as well. “We do everything we can to make it a fun shopping experience.”
Kim also takes very seriously the responsibility to educate and pass on knowledge to the customers. Toward this end, she currently writes four columns, which include both local and national publications. As a certified nurseryman since 1988, she stays educated on research concerning varying areas of crop science; she believes that it is important to know what is opinion or conjecture, and which findings are based on actual testing and studies. “It is our responsibility to have the education, to have the knowledge to share with our consumers. There are so many thousands of items on the market, it is our job to educate the customer and let them make the final decision. I go to a doctor or a lawyer when I need to know something within their realm of expertise. We have put in the time learning how we can best meet the needs of and serve our customers.”
Although keeping up with product lines that are fresh and new shows Kim’s customers her dedication, she has also has logged many hours over the long haul. Her company has spent decades finding the “perfect fruit tree farmer, the perfect rose grower, finding out which line has the best candle… In a small business, you are either moving forward with all engines on go, or you are moving backward. There is no standing still.”
Whether walking on campus, traveling through the main parts of town, or taking a leisurely drive on the outskirts, one may see the fruits of the labor of Kim and her staff. Their accounts not only include residential contracts, but also include large commercial projects. On the SHSU grounds, the main mall and the performing arts buildings are just a few of the edifices that have been adorned to make these surroundings appealing as students traverse throughout their academic careers. Kim’s influence, however, does not end as the pupils head home from classes. The hard working staff has landscaped most of the apartment complexes in town. Bentwater Golf Course is also listed among the commercial projects which Kim’s Home and Garden Center has completed.
Contracts of this size have been garnered by this hometown entrepreneur through vision and hard work. Kim graciously complimented her staff many times over. “I will put my people, our knowledge, and the quality of material against anyone in the state of Texas or the United States. We have wonderful landscape folks. We have great sales people. These people are the very, very best in this field at what they do.” The knowledge, the customer service, the commitment to excellence, and the energy to always be on the lookout for ways to beautify our Piney Woods are many of the things which keep Kim’s Home and Garden a premium garden center in our area.