Warner’s on Wheels, the new extension of Warner’s Nursery, is the company’s key to community connections, according to associates. The trailer turned plant shop brings increased awareness of the business while educating Flagstaff’s youth on gardening, sustainability and bringing the joy of plants to more of the community.
Warner’s is a local family owned plant nursery supplying Flagstaff residents with indoor and outdoor plants and gardening education. Founded in 1970, owner Misti Warner-Anderson said Warner’s has always been passionate about building a relationship with the Flagstaff community and educating residents on sustainability. She said continuing the tradition of community outreach fueled the idea for Warner’s on Wheels.
Warner-Anderson said the idea of using a trailer for Warner’s on Wheels came from hearing about a flower truck at a marketing training put on by the Arizona Nursery Association. She said Warner’s decided to use the vintage trailer for their mobile business because it’s unique charm fit in well with the Flagstaff aesthetic.
The retail operations specialist for Warner’s, Caitlin Thomas, said the visual appeal of the trailer might be at the heart of its success as a segment of the business since having green in the home is trendy. Though according to Thomas, Warner’s also fosters relationships between plants and owners through more personal engagement with the plants. She said Warner’s on Wheels is excellent for greater parts of the community to reap the mental and physical health benefits having a relationship with plants can offer.
Adam Hackbarth works inside the trailer, bringing a bit of Warner’s with him around Flagstaff. Hackbarth said the trailer can set up shop all around Flagstaff, from the urban flea market, to busy streets, to the Coconino county fair.
“[Warner’s on Wheels] is a nice easy way to advertise,” Hackbarth said. “It’s getting the name out there and it's really cute and it's set up so that it attracts people’s attention with nice bright flowers and stuff. So we probably are making a load of sales but we’re really not focused on what we sell, it’s just kind of about getting out into the community and getting eyes on the Warner’s logo.”
Thomas said that while Warner’s on Wheels has been great for the business’s publicity, it also fosters a relationship between Warner’s and the community further than awareness through convenience.
“We wanted to come up with a way to bring plants to areas of town that were otherwise kind of low on those resources,” Thomas said. “So we really wanted to just bring an element of convenience to parts of the community that have a harder time getting into town.”
Thomas said Warner’s has also been able to engage further with parts of the community through education outreaches put on with the trailer. She said Warner’s on Wheels can travel to schools or summer camps to teach kids about gardening and sustainability. Thomas also said Warner’s on Wheels is hoping to visit some senior living areas where access to transportation and plants might be difficult.
“We’ve always offered free field trips to Warner’s. But with Warner’s on Wheels, we are hoping to be able to bring all of our materials to schools to be able to engage with more classes than we previously would" Thomas said. "By being available to them for a pretty inexpensive cost, we can do a whole day of youth engagement or even just a couple of hours.”
Warner-Anderson said STEM education and Warner’s on Wheels go hand in hand. She said Warner’s has always been passionate about teaching the younger generation and has taken on the responsibility of passing along knowledge and gardening skills.
“As a community as a whole, we need to teach kids the importance of gardening and of being sustainable,” Warner-Anderson said.
According to her, it is essential for kids to understand the importance of gardening as well as other lesser-known subjects, such as pollinators. She said believes Warner’s on Wheels is a bridge that will allow Warner’s to carry out this education to more youth in the community.
Hackbarth said at the schools, he would go through a lesson plan for the children and then lead an activity like seed planting for the kids to get a hands on experience with what they’re learning.
“I think it’s a great option for teachers or even for summer camps because it’s just something different for the kids,” Hackbarth said. “They probably don’t even notice they’re learning because it’s fun. The trailer is also just cool for them to see, it’s an old looking trailer, so they like climbing inside of it.”
He said the whole event is exciting for children but also useful because they learn about planting and can go home and use what they learned. Hackbarth also said it is special for kids because they get to take a plant home and water it, care for it and watch it grow. They’re not only learning the science behind it but also the application and importance of gardening, said Hackbarth.
Alongside younger students, Warner’s on Wheels is also aiming to cater to college students, according to Thomas. She said people, regardless of demographic, can benefit from the trailer’s plants.
“We’ve actually connected with the office at NAU to offer a large plant sale when the students come back,” Thomas said. “So we definitely like more student engagement and we feel like this is a way to kind of bring attention to Warner’s because not all students have cars or know we’re out here.”
Thomas said with the growth of online shopping, students’ opportunities to connect with a product before buying it is rare, but this connection is critical when buying plants and Warner’s on Wheels offers this connection.
Thomas said Warner’s on Wheels is in a sense, geared towards students because Warner’s as a business cares about the same things students tend to care about like sustainability, small businesses and aesthetic appeal that the trailer offers.
“Flagstaff is made up of a lot of family-owned businesses,” Thomas said. “It’s still one of those places that’s not a big city. I think that with Route 66 running through, having roadside stands and smaller businesses has always been kind of the charm of this town. Having a vintage trailer that travels around and kind of creates more convenience to buying plants really does fit in...it’s just cute and unique. We wanted to continue that trend.”
Through perpetuating their values and providing them with even more ways to be sustainable consumers, Warner’s on Wheels is amiable to university students, according to Warner-Anderson.
“You know, that generation is really about sustainability and doing the right thing by the environment,” Warner-Anderson said.
She said she believes Warner’s on Wheels appeals to the entirety of Flagstaff and further accomplishes the business’s goal of educating the community.