When Mike Omar opened MorGreen in Collierville in 1987, it was as a traditional outdoor landscaping business, a garden center focused on selling items like fertilizer, mulch and sod and offering some landscaping work.
While MorGreen still offers those products, Omar has completely transformed the company into a business focused on providing the best in outdoor living products and services, essentially bringing indoor comforts and amenities outdoors.
The Collierville-based business designs and builds most outdoor living staples, including patios, pergolas, water features, kitchens and fireplaces.
MorGreen worker Benito Castillo grouts an outdoor kitchen countertop. The Collierville company has shifted to more of a focus on outdoor amenities to meet changing customer demands.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
“What we’ve done over the last three to four years is completely change our business model,” Omar said. “I got rid of the hummingbird feeders and fertilizer and transitioned to an outdoor living business model.”
While the garden center approach worked well for years, increased competition from big-box retailers and the evolving habits of his customer base required Omar to undertake a re-imagining of his business.
“Things have really changed since we opened,” Omar said. “We were definitely more of a garden center but I started seeing where the outdoor kitchens and fireplaces were becoming more of a push than people wanting to work in their yards.
“We were just dying on the vine with an outdated business model. We had to come up with something to give us a different income source.”
Today, with Home Depot and Lowe’s stores located within a short drive of most homes and even grocery stores like Kroger offering a broad range of home gardening supplies, Omar felt like his small business was being squeezed out of existence.
“You don’t even try to compete with them,” Omar said. “What you have to do is find your niche.”
In addition, Omar began to notice that the number of customers, or potential customers, who were interested in doing their own gardening was shrinking. Located at 468 U.S. 72 W. in Collierville, many of Omar’s clients in the upper-income areas of East Shelby County were increasingly eschewing yard work and turning to contractors to design and build their outdoor environments.
“I would say 70 percent of customers don’t do their own landscaping,” Omar said. “They’re at an income level where they can afford to hire somebody else to do it.”
Omar said that when he considered those trends, combined with the fact that the Memphis area’s climate allows for the outdoors to be enjoyed for much of the year, then a shift to a focus on outdoor living was the ideal solution.
Nationally, homebuilders and architects say homeowners are focusing more on their outdoor spaces.
According to research by Professional Builder magazine and the American Institute of Architects, requests for outdoor living space have increased by more than 50 percent and outdoor living space remains one of the top three most-requested items by homebuyers in recent years. While requests for special-function rooms inside homes – home theaters, workshops, etc. – have declined in recent years, builders and architects consistently report a growing interest in expanding the household’s living space into the outdoors.
“It really is like an extension of the house,” said Omar, referring to the growing focus homeowners are putting on their outdoor spaces.