With a retail location in addition to its catalog, Berlin Seeds is a one stop shop for seeds and gardening supplies.
After opening the retail store in January, Berlin Seeds has fulfilled its goal of becoming more "retail friendly," while still offering catalog sales and store pickups, said Berlin Seeds General Manager Henry Erb Jr. "We had so many people say, 'Can't we just get our own seeds?' We wanted to accommodate what people want."
"We want people to be able to come in and shop based on product information that is right there with the product. It's an ongoing project," he said. "Seeds are our main business, but our focus is on self-sustainability. People can grow their own food and know where it came from."
With the upsurge of Genetically Modified Organisms on the shelves of many grocery stores, Berlin Seeds has made a commitment not to sell GMO seeds.
There is no better way to avoid these than growing one's own food as much as possible, explained Erb.
"We focus on growing your own food, making it more nutritious and having varieties that are suited for that purpose. They have good flavor and perform well for home gardeners," he said. "Plus, we have a large selection of organic and naturally-based fertilizers that help promote a nutrient-dense food."
To allow customers to do so, the store offers hundreds of varieties of seeds.
These include 33 varieties of beans, 18 varieties of peas, 28 varieties of corn and hundreds of small vegetable varieties.
"We buy right from the grower, which allows us to compete well with the larger seed companies. We offer a fair price point with the same varieties," said Erb. "By keeping it local, with a local work force, it gives us an advantage."
The store also carries 11 varieties of sprouting seeds, along with accessories. These include alfalfa, clover, radish and more.
"The nutritional content is really incredible in the sprouts -- once it has sprouted, it has up to 10 times (the nutrition) that can actually be found in the seeds," said Erb. "It's a good way to get your nutrition in the wintertime when you don't have fresh nutrients coming in from the garden."
The store also offers flowers and herbs.
This year, Berlin Seeds will provide a complimentary picture stake tag with each flower and herb seed packet, and for many of the vegetables as well.
"We saw the need, so we provided that at no extra charge," said Erb.
Other items include plant material such as asparagus, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, strawberries and onions, available after March 4.
"We get them in about the time people can start planting them, to keep them fresh," said Erb. "We like to have those out at the retail store so people can see what they are getting before they buy it."
In addition to seeds, the store offers items that go hand-in-hand with gardening and living sustainable in accordance with the store's slogan -- "Gardening success from planting to plate."
For example, canning supplies, seed starters, row covers, frost protection and pest control.
"We try to follow up; Not just provide the seeds, but give you the tools you need to take those seeds all the way to the table," said Erb. "Even if you grow it, you have to learn what to do with it. So it takes some tools to take you from the garden to the plate."
Other items include non-sugar sweeteners like Stevia and Xylitol, Ganoderma Coffee and Strong Tower Coffee, as well as Tincture Kits.
"These actually work," said Erb of the kits, which he and his wife have used for years. "If you make them and you use them, you actually get results from them."
And as for the coffee, Ganaderma is known for its nutritional benefits, and Strong Tower Coffee comes directly from a children's home in El Salvador.
"You're getting really good coffee plus the proceeds directly benefit the children's home," said Erb.
To welcome customers to the retail location, Berlin Seeds will have an open house for the retail store's grand opening on Feb. 22-23 with free giveaways, refreshments and specials.
"We'll be able to display items that people may not know we have, show the things we'll offer here in the store that aren't in the catalog because of shipping issues and costs. Also, we already have some stuff in the catalog available with an in-store pickup price," said Erb.
Berlin Seeds also provides trouble shooting with tips on everything from product use to pruning.
"A lot of people like to garden, but when they have problems they don't know where to go. We do a lot of trouble shooting during the summer for pest and disease control and even for leisure requirements," said Erb, noting that the catalog features a large Problem/Solution section and customers may call in with questions. "We research and help people determine what is wrong with your plants and/ or what can be done to fix and prevent it."
This ties into the store's practice of providing product information on the shelves, "so people can utilize the products for their needs," said Erb.
Providing trouble shooting free of charge demonstrates Berlin Seeds' approach to customer service -- treat the customer right and he or she will return to the store.
"If you provide it for your customers, they will be loyal to you. We help people accomplish what they want to accomplish -- whether that's growing more nutritious food or solving problems that show up in the garden to selling canning equipment for food preservation," said Erb.
Berlin Seeds is located at 5335 County Road 77, Millersburg, Ohio 44654. The store can be reached at 330-893-2091.
Reporter Kelley Mohr can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.