The news spread like wildflowers when a garden shop favorite announced it would close at the end of June.
Bayer’s Garden Shop, which has locations in Imperial and south St. Louis, announced June 6 that its two stores will close June 30.
During its 81 years, Bayer’s has been operated by three generations of family members.
The Facebook post that announced the closure was shared more than 3,000 times and generated nearly 1,000 comments by June 10.
“I will miss it a lot,” said Stephanie Guliano, 49, of Arnold, who was shopping June 9 at the Imperial location with her daughter, Hailey Guliano, 19. “It is a really nice place to come. It has a lot more variety than a Lowe’s or Home Depot. It is nice to come to a nursery, and my daughter likes flowers just as much as I do.”
Jason Bayer, who has operated the business with his brother, Greg Bayer, since 2011, said there have been mounting challenges keep the business going for years.
“Before 1990, there were no box stores. After 1990, the competition greatly increased,” he said. “Now, within the last five years, customers can buy mulch, topsoil, plants, etc., at grocery stores and gas stations. There are also pop-up stands that open up in April and May, so the competition is tremendous for April and May.
“Also, since the housing market crash (in 2008), we have had major suppliers go out of business,” Bayer said. “There has been at least one per year. This is not something the average person would be aware of.”
Bayer said the business makes half of its profits in April and May, which historically covers the cost to operate for the rest of the year.
He said the business typically loses money from July through December.
Bayer said because of the staffing and product shortages and price increases, he and his brother decided to close the doors.
“This was not an easy decision,” Bayer said. “If we try to push on until next spring, we will end up bankrupt.”
Jason and Greg’s grandparents, Oscar and Hortense Bayer, opened the St. Louis location at 3401 Hampton Ave. in 1941, Bayer said.
Their son and Jason and Greg’s father, Ron Bayer, took over the business in 1963. He expanded the St. Louis location in 1965 and opened the Imperial location in 1973 on an 8-acre lot at 5926 Old State Road, Jason Bayer said.
He said he and his brother took over after Ron Bayer died in 2011.
The business had many long-term employees through its eight decades, and many of its managers started working at one of the two locations as teenagers. Some stayed with Bayer’s for more than 40 years, Bayer said.
“Over the years, these managers have moved on or retired,” he said. “Now we are down to three managers who are all 60 or older. These managers are near retirement and there is no one to take their place. We have had problems finding help for the past five years.”
Cheryl Schulze, 61, of Imperial said she was shocked when she heard Bayer’s will close.
She said she moved to the area in 1996 and has shopped at Bayer’s a few times a year, purchasing various plants for her home and as memorial gifts.
“It has been an ongoing business for as long as I can remember,” Schulze said. “It will definitely be missed.”
Hailey Guliano said she will miss exploring the nursery grounds with her mother.
“These places are fun to walk around in,” she said. “It is not like Lowe’s or Home Depot. It is a nice outdoor place you can walk around in and see everything that grows.”
Bayer said he’s not surprised by the reaction from customers. “One of the best parts about working at Bayer’s is when people ask where you work, you always get a positive response,” he said.
Bayer said the shops will post sales events on the company’s Facebook page.
As of June 10, trees and shrubs were selling for 10 percent off; ceramic, clay and plastic pots were 20 percent off; and concrete, statuary and fountains were 20 percent off.