By LOU WILIN
Five months after it closed, Findlay’s DeHaven Home & Garden Showplace will reopen today at 15276 U.S. 224 East.
The longtime business will offer trees, flowers, shrubs, and other landscaping and gardening goods, lawn mowers and grills, and landscaping services. Its fireplace business was sold to Clean Sweep Fireplace and Stove, Lima.
Hard times taught majority owner Tim DeHaven to shed the fireplace business and furniture sales, and to stick to his core competencies.
“We had too much going on, so we had to shrink ourselves back and get back to what we were good at,” DeHaven said.
Too much debt, a slump in the gardening industry, and DeHaven’s health problems combined to force the closing of the Findlay store last year while the company’s Lima store remained open.
DeHaven Home & Garden Showplace also is a lesson in the risks of success and growth in business. When Findlay’s DeHaven store moved from a Lima Avenue location to the larger and then-new U.S. 224 site in 1989, it incurred “a bunch of debt.”
“We … damn near went bust that time,” DeHaven said. “We lost money for five years in the early ’90s. Five years in a row, well over a million dollars.”
DeHaven survived the storm, started to make money and refinanced the debt.
The business surged into more prosperous times. DeHaven expanded the Lima store about 2005, and added more debt to what he was still carrying from the Findlay expansion in 1989.
When the housing boom went bust in 2008, it took with it the gardening and landscaping industries. It has not been the same since. DeHaven’s Lima and Findlay stores went from $7.5 million in sales in 2009 to about $4.5 million last year. DeHaven’s debt became a strangling burden.
“We got in so much horrible debt the last few years,” he said. “It’s unbelievable.”
In 2010, the business lost money. A bank adviser recommended expenses be cut. At that point, DeHaven and his son, John, decided to cut the landscaping operation. It seemed like a logical choice because landscaping had been declining. But the DeHavens soon realized that decision was a mistake, and they returned to landscaping in 2012.
But by that time, Tim DeHaven had been beset with serious health problems. Heart valve repair surgery had complications that made his life a nightmare. He had to have a leg amputated, along with toes on the other foot and some fingers.
DeHaven spiraled downward into other health problems and depression when the business desperately needed its leader to right the ship during an economic storm.
“That kind of stuff hurt us when I was sick because I couldn’t react,” he said. “I always had bought all of the plants. Wasn’t able to do that for a couple of years.”
“I was the main man. You have got to be really in the game, and our business is such a fast-paced business,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to react.”
He tried to come back, but he was not at full strength mentally and made some bad decisions, he said.
The business troubles worsened.
“We saw in July (2013) we weren’t making sales goals,” he said.
DeHaven considered transferring the deed for the Findlay store to the bank and getting a credit toward the outstanding debt. The Findlay store, instead of the Lima store, was the focus because it is more marketable, he said. But the deed transfer never occurred.
In August and September, DeHaven laid off 25 employees between the Findlay and Lima stores. That left him with about 20.
The Findlay store was closed in October, with the assumption it would be sold and the DeHaven business would either rent some of the space or relocate elsewhere in Findlay.
If he had to do it over again, DeHaven would not have closed the Findlay store, he said. It generated nearly $2 million in sales per year.
Ultimately, DeHaven wants to sell both the Findlay and Lima properties to help repay his debt, and then lease the space.
“What I’m having to deal with right now is paying past-due bills I have, trying to keep inventory on the floor and trying to deal with the banks and deal with the taxes,” DeHaven said.
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