Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply was into all natural and organic way before it was hip.
Recent winners of the Sacramento Sustainable Business award, sustainability has been a way of life for owners Eric and Pattie Boudier.
"If it's not organic or what we call natural, it's against what we stood for for 34 years," Eric said.
Open since 1976, the Grass Valley garden supply store has come a long way from the garage it once called home. It now boasts an expansive warehouse, retail store stuffed to the brim and a nursery featuring native, drought-resistant and edible plants.
The Boudiers have owned the company for 14 years and Pattie's son is an employee. During the economic downtown of the past few years, their business has grown 50 percent.
The Boudiers attribute this to being in the right place at the right time and to the rise in popularity of being organic and shopping locally, which bodes well for the only garden supply store and nursery in town with an organic and natural focus.
Eric moved to the United States from France in 1987 when the retail company he worked for opened a store in Houston.
Leaving his former company before it closed, Eric and his wife found themselves ready for a new venture.
"We wanted to buy a business we would love to work in," Pattie said. "What drew us is the fact that the company is 100 percent natural or organic."
"It's an important niche and we believe in it," she said.
The Boudiers thought Nevada County was a great community; they had been desiring a more rural lifestyle.
Growing up in New Jersey, Pattie's family maintained gardens and frequented farm stands. Living in Houston, Eric missed the hyper-local food culture of his native country.
Gardening aficionados? "When we bought the business we didn't know too much about it," Pattie admitted.
What they lacked in gardening skills they made up with being good business people.
Eric holds a master's degree in business and Pattie is a former vice president of sales.
She attributes overcoming the gardening-related learning curve to a good staff and being hands-on. She's taken a Master Gardener class and became involved in the
Local Food Coalition; Eric, coordinating Peaceful Valley's catalogue, became familiar with the company's more than 5,000 products.
The Boudiers recently celebrated 20 years of marriage. They have a vegetable garden and orchard at their southern Nevada County home.
Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply has 40 year-round employees; as many as 20 seasonal employees are hired during the busy spring season.
Products include seeds, soils, pest control, irrigation supplies and books - more items are offered than can be displayed at the store. There are specific items for the seasoned gardener, as well as everything the novice needs to start.
Bestsellers? Fertilizer, pest control and seeds, according to Eric. These were "the birth of the business," he said.
Pattie concurs, especially in regard to soil products. "If we don't have those, forget it."
Most of the Peaceful Valley operation, including marketing and purchasing, is done in-house in the upstairs offices. Classes taught by experts are offered twice a month. As certified organic handlers, Peaceful Valley packages its own seed packs.
The business has a new focus on homesteading, with products such as canning and preserving equipment giving a deeper dimension to sustainability.
Peaceful Valley has a national customer base, with most of their business being done via phone orders and through their website, GrowOrganic.com.
Often shipping 500 to 600 packages a day, the Boudiers claim to be FedEx's largest account in Nevada County. The retail store and nursery generate about a quarter of the sales.
The Boudiers are focusing on redesigning their website to make it more modern and easy to use.
"It's not prehistoric, but needed to be revamped," Eric said.
The Boudiers also are looking to new media, featuring garden blogs on their website and planning to join Facebook.
Peaceful Valley opens its conference room for the Nevada County Land Trust and is a former sponsor of the Nevada City Farmers Market.
Sponsors of many other local agricultural events, they are involved with the South Yuba River Citizens League Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival and the Freshman Farmer and Come Home to Eat programs. They offer a 20 percent discount to schools.
To contact Reader Liaison Angela Diaz, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4203.
Eric and Pattie Boudier, owners, Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply
125 Clydesdale Court in Grass Valley
(530) 272-4769, 1-888-784-1722 or GrowOrganic.com
Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; the nursery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday