Change has come around every 30 years for the O’Neill family business in Spaniard's Bay.
Established in 1960, the family business started off as grocery store opened by Joe and Teresa O’Neill. The Shop n’ Save Supermarket served the surrounding communities with groceries, fresh meat, and home supplies.
“It was a very, very busy enterprise until the larger grocery chains came,” says their son, Steven O’Neill.
“My father had a green thumb, and that’s when the greenhouses started to go up.”
As the economy changed and competition grew, the Shop n’ Save Supermarket transitioned into a garden centre business in 1990. Over the next 25 years, the largest independent garden centre in Conception Bay North continued to expand with multiple greenhouses, public gardens, and retail space. O’Neill, along with his brother Anthony, followed in their parents’ footsteps to run the business.
“Right away, I started landscaping,” says O’Neill. “We’ve been landscaping for 30 years and we’ve been running a garden centre business for 30 years.”
While O’Neill managed landscape services through OGL Landscape Professionals, Anthony ran O’Neill’s Gardenland.
Nearly 30 years after the shift from supermarket to garden centre, the family business is undergoing a significant change once again. Earlier this spring, the business owners announced a shift in gears to focus solely on landscaping as O’Neill Landscape.
“Anthony decided to retire and I decided to buy his company shares and we decided just to focus 100 per cent on landscape construction, due to the volatility in the retail market of garden centre businesses,” says O’Neill. “It’s more of a restructure, a streamline and a focus. My passion versus my former partner’s passion.”
O’Neill says the garden centre business is complicated work.
“Unless you’re a big player of multiple garden centres, you’re not relevant in the industry anymore,” he says.
But, he acknowledges, people in the community will miss the long-time garden centre.
“We’re truly missed,” says O’Neill. “Our quality was second to none. But that comes at a very steep price.”
The news of Gardenlands closing disappointed many of their customers.
“Facebook and the social media thing was a little bit aggressive for the first week or so,” says O’Neill. “A small number of people are just really passionate about our business that were disappointed. But most people have just moved on and of course we’ll take care of any clients, because we’re still the same company, so we’re taking care of any clients that have any issues.”
Along with full-service landscape construction, O’Neill Landscape will specialize in property maintenance, and snow and ice management, servicing all of Newfoundland.
“It’s a really great time to make the shift,” says O’Neill.
Keeping the spirit of the family business alive, the company now has a third generation onboard, with O’Neill’s son, Nicholas, working alongside his father.