BEST GARDEN CENTER - 2003
Frank Gerten settled on a few acres of property south of St. Paul in the early 1900s... Thus begins the trite but true roots-to-riches tale of this family-owned gardeners' mecca in Inver Grove Heights. Whether you need a new Felco pruner, a pep talk on your pansies, or a whole truckload of perennials, Gertens proves that it's possible to support a locally run business and still satisfy your 21st-century jones for slick one-stop convenience à la the Home Depot. As with any large outlet, it helps to know what you're looking for, but if you don't, a squad of conversant green-thumb advisers stands at the ready. For patient browsers, there are hundreds of bushes and blooms to look over--most of them locally grown--plus a formidable landscaping center, and, ahem, the "Grill Zone." Even the Gertens website has full-service perks, from seminar schedules and a library of useful tending tips to a proper online store. Bless the many metro alternatives who keep it smaller and simpler, but if anything can lure us out of the neighborhood, it's the elusive promise of a single trip.