Liebherr Machinery Allows Merrifield Garden Center to Bloom in Gainesvile

Mon November 17, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni

A new Merrifield Garden Center is under construction in Northern Virginia where it will be situated on 40 acres (16 ha) at the corner of Wellington Road and Merrifield Garden Way in Gainesville, Va.

Liebherr Equipment Store has been selling equipment to Merrifield to help build the new garden center since August 2006 and to keep in its fleet for years to come.

The owners of Merrifield Garden Centers, Bob Warhurst and Buddy Williams, founded the company in 1971. In addition to the newly constructed location, there are Merrifield Garden Centers in Fairfax and Merrifield, Va. The company is a full-service garden center that provides landscaping services and has one of the largest and most complete nurseries in the country.

The new center is being built in phases. Phase one consists of a 37,000-sq.-ft. (3,440 sq m) greenhouse and an 11,000-sq.-ft. (1,020 sq m) breezeway with 35-ft. (10.7 m) high ceilings. Among other things, the center’s cashiers will be located in the breezeway. In phase two, according to Tim Goolsby, equipment manager of Merrifield Garden Center, “We will also be constructing a store building [with two floors] and a classroom wing.”

When these phases are done, the greenhouse, breezeway and the store building will total upwards of 60,000 sq. ft. (5,570 sq m). The company is leaving enough space to allow for future expansion projects.

The main greenhouse is a Cabrio system from Belgium. The greenhouse has a climate control system that, according to Goolsby, “keeps the temperature moderate inside.” Also, its roof design offers maximum ventilation — it generates up to 96 percent ventilation. The Cabrio greenhouse is considered safe for storms, and each roof section is motorized for operating individual sections. Goolsby said the roof operation was easy as “flipping a switch.” Venlo Inc. designs and fabricates all parts of the Cabrio system.

Additionally, annual and perennial greenhouses, manufactured by Cravo, a company that specializes in retractable roof greenhouses, will be built behind the main building. The annual house will be 15,876 sq. ft. (1,475 sq m), and the perennial house will stand at 21,168 sq. ft. (1,970 sq m). Warehouses, wholesale buildings and various shops also are included in the construction.

During construction as well as throughout its everyday operations, the company has a “green” guiding principle.

“We have been very proud to support the environment, going green, by recycling all of our concrete, asphalt, brick and stone to produce usable gravel,” Goolsby said. “We also recycle all of our wood products into mulch, and soils are used to produce our own topsoil.”

Recycling saves the company money as well. During the site work for the new center, the earthmoving consisted of changing the contour of the site. As a result, no dirt was brought in or taken out. Goolsby admitted, “We have 50,000 cubic yards sitting in a pile.” That dirt won’t go to waste though. “Every bit of dirt we will use ourselves or sell,” he confirmed.

Similarly, the company reuses any leftover concrete and rock. Surplus concrete debris will be crushed and used as gravel. Rock that was blasted out of the retention ponds during construction will be crushed into gravel then put under asphalt in the parking lot.

In addition to its retail business, the company moves earth, pours concrete, lays asphalt, crushes stone, builds structures — all with a fleet of roughly 180 pieces of equipment. Merrifield also has about 220 trucks that it keeps on hand for a variety of uses including delivery trucks, dump trucks, concrete trucks and tractor trailers.

Construction of the $13 million center is all self-performed by Merrifield Garden Center’s crew. “We have all the trades employed by us,” Goolsby said.

George Thompson, retail territory manager of Liebherr Equipment Store, has had a working relationship with Merrifield Garden Center since 1988 when he was a field service technician. Thompson took his current position in sales in July 2006. He works out of the Manassas branch.

Goolsby’s most recent purchase for Merrifield Garden Center was a second Liebherr 566 rubber-tire wheel loader with a 5.5-yd. bucket. The older loader was purchased about a year and a half ago.

Merrifield also owns two Liebherr 632 crawler loaders and a Liebherr R914B excavator.

Thompson arranged a rent to purchase agreement, and Merrifield bought the 632 after three months of renting.

Goolsby, Thompson and their respective companies have a mutual fondness that has grown over the years. Whether his equipment needs are long term or short term or if he wants to make a purchase, Goolsby knows that Liebherr will provide what he requests.

“Liebherr has become for us a very good business partner,” Goolsby said. “They help us out in a pinch.”

Thompson feels that, over the years, the relationship has become pleasantly familiar. “They are great customers and good people to deal with,” he said.

As the construction is nearing completion, portions of the center have been operational while the work occurs.

“We have been open since last fall with a retail area near the Merrifield Garden Way entrance.” explained Goolsby, “We have a nice selection of plants, mulches and topsoils, stone products and gardening accessories.”

A grand opening date and associated events will be planned once Goolsby and others can determine when the buildings will be ready for occupancy. Goolsby said they “hope to be open in the new building possibly for the holidays, otherwise early in the new year.” CEG