Mike’s Hothouse and Country Store, the family-owned-and-operated nursery located on Route 44/55 in Gardiner, started out as a small one-greenhouse operation that evolved into a three-greenhouse retail and market business, as well as landscaping services and flower arrangements for weddings/funerals and special occasions.
Portia and Mike Cozzolino originally launched their greenhouse and landscaping business in 2000 when Portia’s father, the owner of Donato Farms, suggested that they bring their greenhouse to the farm near the road and start selling their plants and flowers.
“We had this one greenhouse and a cash register inside of it,” recalls Portia, “but soon it just snowballed and we needed to expand. So we built two more greenhouses and then this market,” a traditional barn-red, Cape-styled roadside structure.
The greenhouses are a riot of color and smells, with everything from herbs to vegetable plants, annuals, perennials and hanging baskets whose blossoms spill over like a waterfall.
There are also trees and shrubs, rosebushes and everything that a gardener needs, from mulch and peat moss to topsoil and fertilizer.
Asked what they believe their signature is, Mike Cozzolino said, “We’re an old-fashioned Mom-and-Pop type business. We carry your flats to your car; we’ll order whatever you need; we’ll plant something that you request…”
“We even plant people’s pots for them that they bring us,” added Portia. “You can show us a picture of your home and garden, and we can suggest what might be the right plants or bushes to fill in the spaces. We treat our customers on a very personal level, whether they need a hand, an idea, have questions about what’s best to plant or grow or how to feed their plants and vegetables.”
Another thing that sets them apart is the size of some of their containers. “We use big pots, because it helps build a better root system for the plants. And our customers love it, because they feel like they’re getting the most for their money when they take this large, overflowing pot home,” said Portia, pointing to a tub of peppers. “The Ag and Market inspector told me that he never sees these sized pots being sold anymore.”
“It’s like getting a Big Gulp at 7-Eleven!” joked Mike. “But when they go home, not only are they going to have a thick plant, but that plant is going to be healthy and do well, because we’ve given it room to grow and fed it, used the best soil and fertilizer…I even play music for our plants!”
As their greenhouses grew, so did other parts of their business, including landscaping and doing event-specific landscaping and flower arrangements. “This was a fall wedding Portia did,” said Mike, pointing to pictures of an outdoor wedding, which she designed with mums and fresh fall flowers. There was another picture of a wedding where she was asked to design a centerpiece bouquet in various vases, each having to be unique but to tie in.
“She’s the genius behind that, not me!” said Mike with a laugh. “I can grow them; she can arrange them in such a creative way.”
Inside the Market store were a variety of garden-related products as well as unique gifts, like their selection of pottery including garden pots and birdbaths, plus birdfeeders, garden-themed wall-hangings and tin garden art. They also carry an organic lotion line, seeds and 99-cent gift cards, which are rare anymore at that price. “We want this to be a one-stop shop for gardeners,” said Portia, as well as having some unique gifts that they might enjoy.
Mike’s Hothouse also grows for five local farms. “We have a strong local base of customers, and then we have those that come from the tip of New Jersey all the way to Cape Cod for our flowers, and especially our hanging baskets,” said Mike.
It’s a low-key, friendly environment at their nursery, with their two school-aged children helping out, as well as Portia’s parents. They are open every day of the week now, and you can learn more about them by stopping by or calling (845) 883-6868 or by visiting www.mikeshothouse.com.