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July 10, 2009

So long Smith, So long Hawken

Smith & Hawken

Smith & Hawken, the symbol of high-end gardening for more than 30 years, is going out of business. 

Founded in Marin County, Calif., as a garden tool importer, it was purchased in 2004 by Scotts Miracle-Gro.

"With the economy and the markets the way they are, this is just something we needed to do for the overall business," said Scotts Miracle-Gro spokesman Su Lok from company headquarters in Ohio.

There are no more on-line sales, but some 56 retail outlets - there is one in Chevy Chase - will be open until they finish liquidation.

Its two founders told reporters they are relieved because the business had long since become detached from its original values.

 While the original Smith & Hawken focused on high-end English gardening tools with a lifetime guarantee, the company branched into outdoor living products such as furniture, fire pits, lighting and garden decor.

"Scotts couldn't have been a worse corporate owner," said Paul Hawken. "Smith & Hawken had become just a ghost of itself."

Dave Smith, who lives in Mendocino County and owns Mulligan Books in Ukiah, said he had gone so far as to ask friends to boycott the company bearing his name.

"When Scotts bought it and Smith & Hawken was owned by the largest pesticide seller in the U.S., I suggested people boycott it," he said. "It had completely lost its roots."

Hawken, now head of engineering firm Pax Group, used the occasion of the closure to host a party Wednesday night.

"I couldn't be happier to see my name come down," he said

There is a lovely tribute to the company on Garden Rant. Check it out. 

Posted by Susan Reimer at 9:28 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Garden news


Wasn't there a Smith & Hawkens in Mt Washington(ish)? I remember going there when it first opened. I couldn't afford a darned thing but it was like Wonderland.

You are right, there was. But my colleague Kate from Charm City Moms says it has been closed for more than a year.--Susan

We find it amusing that Smith & Hawken made money selling out to Scotts then they critisize it so heavily. If core values were so important, why did you take the cash out and run? Funny.

To clarify for the amused royal Debbie...the founders sold the original company many years ago understandably with the intent that the new owners would carry on their values.

Alas, S&H had changed hands several times since before Scott's purchased it. The founders would likely have never sold their company based on organic gardening to the largest petrochemical pusher in the entire gardening industry.

I agree with Debbie. I bet they had a big party when they got bought out too. Where was their conscious then?

I am sorry to see Smith & Hawkins closing their doors. I remember my grandmother's old rose pruners. I always felt anticipation every time she pulled those pruners out.
She would take me out side and show me all of her prize roses. I was never to pick one. But I knew that when she slipped those pruners from her pocket I was about to get one of those treasured ladies. I would stretch my little body as close to them as I could. “This one grandma,” I’d say. She would carefully pull the pruners from her garden smock and cut that beautiful rose for me.
I was recently looking for a similar pruner for myself. Smith & Hawkins closure means that I had to find another site to purchase my gardening tools. I was able to locate it on
They provide many of the same things as S & H, at lower prices. And the ground shipping was free. The customer service that Outdora has provided me was excellent. Now when my granddaughters come to my house, I will be able to carry on the tradition.
Smith & Hawkins, I am sorry to see you go.

I hate to see Smith & Hawken stop selling online. I haven't ever been to one of their stores before, because there isn't one near me, but I did buy stuff from them online. However, I found another company called Outdora that has some of the same stuff (less furniture) at actually lower prices. Anyway, I'll be shopping there from now on.

Bruce Aronson
Goodbye Smith and Hawkin

July 11, 2009 After trying unsuccessfully to find a buyer, Smith and Hawkin closed this week. They are no longer taking orders on their web site. They are in the process of closing all 56 of their brick and mortar storefronts. They won’t be sending out any more catalogs.
The more I read about their demise, the less I felt their closing was driven by the economy. Instead, a blog written by Matt Mattus aimed at “those gardeners who are bored with the ordinary” seems to express it all. He wasn’t surprised by this closure. As a “professional gardening hobbyist’ he always found something intriguing in their catalog or store. But lately, their merchandise became “ho hum” and less unique. Matt complained that the Smith and Hawkin shopping “experience” had changed and not for the better.
Coincidentally, a friend of mine asked me to look for copies of the stone heads on Easter Island while I was at the Atlanta Gift Market next week. He wanted something different for his award winning backyard landscaping. His request and Matt’s comments reminded me of a Pool and Patio Center that was known for carrying the most unique of gifts and furniture. We actually sold large hand carved wooden tiki heads and ceramic tiki glasses personalized with our customer’s name or initials.
In 1952, when my dad started this store, there were very few manufacturers of outdoor furniture. There were no other places to buy outdoor furniture in New Orleans. For that reason, anything we carried seemed unique to customers in our market. The Mallin Ring Chair, The Famous Telescope Director Chair, and innumerable other odd and unusual pieces made shopping in our store. . . well, an “experience.”
Shopping in American is no longer an “experience” at least not an enjoyable one. Everything has become so homogeneous. Our children wear the same clothes from Old Navy or Abercrombie and Fitch. Our homes are filled with decorative accessories made in China and sold through big box stores. Even if we wanted something different, where are we to shop? The small boutique stores have given way to mega giant big boxes whose presence is ubiquitous even in small town U. S. A. Think about it, how many Starbucks or Banana Republics are in your hometown! Michigan Ave. in Chicago and Fifth Ave. in New York are all about J. Crew, Crate and Barrel, and Nike Town; stores that every town has these days.
People are starved for a new and interesting shopping experience. Have you been to a Pier I lately? When they first opened, they had an eclectic mix of wild and mysterious merchandise. I never walked out of there without buying something. Now, their merchandise has become mundane and boring. I never walk out having bought anything. The same can be said for the Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn stores. Both retailers are in trouble, not just because of the economy, but because their product mix isn’t interesting anymore. I mean how many fuzzy sofa blankets do you need?!
The best example of this has to be Sharper Image. I took a trip years ago to visit my brother in La Jolla. While there, we ran across a Sharper Image store. I had never seen one of their stores but I had gotten their catalog. I couldn’t wait to go in. I was mesmerized by their selection of things I had never seen before. In fact, I visited that store several times that trip. When they closed last year, many people, including me, blamed their demise on how bland their offerings had become; air purifiers and all things memory foam.
For many years, I always bought one thing at market that was a showstopper. I didn’t always expect to sell it. In fact, I didn’t care whether I did or not. I just wanted something that made shopping at my store different than going to my competitors. One year we brought in a rickshaw. Another was human sized chessmen including the Queen, a Bishop, a Knight, and a pawn or two that we arranged on a chessboard made of crushed white and black marble. I haven’t done that in a while and shame on me!
So, I guess you see where I am going with this. Look around your store. Try to see it from the eyes of a consumer. Has your product mix become “ho hum?” Is your floor a sea of the dark brown finish with beige cushions or slings? Do you carry at least three items that are so truly different you would be tempted to buy them? Is shopping in your store an “experience?” In these trying days, we have to do everything we can to convince a consumer they should buy. Making shopping a fun and exciting adventure is one place to start

While these blogs are great to vent about a company that you may or may not like; please remember that Smith and Hawken employees over 700 people. And this number does not take into account the many vendors that will be affected by the brand closing. Being one of these employees that will soon be loosing their job, I will miss the great customers that would come in and look around the store to see what was new. My store has heard nothing but positive comments from customers about how they will miss the store and the wonderful variety of products that we carried. Also, our warranty was unmatched by any other retailer that I have ever shopped in. If a product didn't meet your expections for whatever reason we would take it back graciously. Just try and find that out in the world today. One last comment, if the original "Smith and Hawken" didn't want their brand to change, maybe they shouldn't have sold it in the first place.

Tricia, I'm sure everyone's sorry for the employees of Smith & Hawken who will soon be unemployed, but S&H was in the end part of a large corporation, one which does not appear to have rewarded you well for your service and dedication in cultivating a loyal customer base. The founders left the company in the late 80s and early 90s, and the brand has been sold and sold again, so if anyone is to blame, I imagine you should start with the current owners who finally ran it into the ground.

does anyone know where to still find Smith & Hawken's wonderful peony stakes? They're like nothing sold by anyone else -- aesthetic and functional. Does any other company still manufacture them?


I have a gift certificate from S&H - is there any possible way to use it or to cash it in? Would appreciate some help on this -

I have a gift certificate from S&H - is there any possible way to use it or to cash it in? Would appreciate some help on this -

I think Target took over S&H. You might call them and see what they can do for you. -- Susan

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About Susan Reimer
Susan Reimer has spent 16 years writing about raising kids - among other topics - in her column for The Baltimore Sun. And every time son Joseph or daughter Jessie passed another milestone - driver's license, college, wedding or a move to a new military duty station - she has planted another garden. Now she will be writing about those gardens - and yours - here on Garden Variety.

Susan isn't an expert gardener, but she wasn't an expert mother, either. Both - the kids and the gardens - seem to be doing well in spite of her.

She lives in Annapolis with her husband, Gary Mihoces, who loves to cut his grass but has noticed that there seems to be less of it every time the kids pass another milestone.

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