by Andrew Rudansky
When Charles Marder started his first business, selling eggs out of his parent’s home, he was just five years old. When he was nine years old his sister got a horse. He saw an opportunity in this and began selling the manure to local farmers. Now, decades later, he and his wife Kathleen own and operate what they call the largest horticultural center on the east end of Long Island. As Marder likes to put it, “this business is a natural evolving thing.” A business that has not stopped changing since Marder first started selling eggs.
Marders, located on Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton, is now entering its 34th year of providing the Hamptons with gardening and landscaping services. Marders boasts an 18-acre main campus, 10 acres of growing fields and seven acres for the production facilities.
“There are things here that you won’t find anywhere else” said Marder. “In a world full of sameness we are different.”
Despite this bigness, it has not diminished the family-owned appeal of the business. Charles looks every bit the local farmer, complete with overalls and a baseball cap. When describing his business he is humble: “We are a provider of a multitude of ideas and products in the horticulture field…We are part of the community, this is always more about community than business.”
“We have been really lucky,” said Silas Marder, Charles’ eldest son and creative director at Marders. “We have some really great clients. We know we couldn’t get to this place without them.” He said he also understood Marders’ need to draw in new costumers, and offering them a variety of services is a way to do just that.
Primarily Marders offers gardening and landscaping products, selling everything from massive 80-year-old trees to small potted perennials. Marders also offers landscaping services, property care, gardening books, house making gifts and a wide range of gardening products.
“We have plants that can help you build a timeless garden,” said Charles Marder. Many of the products sold in the garden center some from local business owners. Charles Marder said that all of the perennials, herbs, and flowers are all grown by local growers on the East End.
“It’s a real partnership,” said Marder, “we work very closely with our growers.”
Mary Woltz, a local beekeeper and owner of Bee’s Needs, keeps bee hives on the Marders property, and sells her locally-made honey in the store as well.
In another effort to change the business, Marders opened up its very own café last summer. Silas Marder, said the café is “one more reason for people to come here,” calling the new addition, “No fuss; it just has really good cups of coffee.”
The café is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during normal store hours. In addition to a café, Marders boasts an art gallery, a sculpture garden and a free outdoor film series.
“Marders really grew into a hybrid company,” said Charles Marder referring to various facets of his business.
Silas Marder admits that the income coming from these other services is fairly disproportionate compared to their horticultural business; but he said, “all parts of the business affect each other in the bigger picture of things”
A key aspect of their business that Silas Marder says separates the company from its competitors is its commitment to being 100 percent organic in all of its horticultural services. Nine years ago Charles Marder and his wife decided to do away with all chemical sprays and pesticides. This commitment to a chemical free business has provided another opportunity for Marders, who now use and sell their own brand of all-natural fertilizer.
Silas Marder said, “It’s important to know what companies are putting in their products.” He said the choice to go organic was an easy one to make, for both the customers and for selfish reasons as well
“[These plants are] something that we are around every day, and we don’t want to be around all of those chemicals,” said Marder.
With a business model built on constantly evolving, Marders is always looking for new ideas to change the company. Most recently Silas Marder is looking into designing a Marders line of outdoor furniture.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” said Charles Marder on the changing nature of his business, “but people come here because they don’t want a cookie cutter approach.”