Hole’s Greenhouses and Gardens Ltd.: Building a Community Through Sustainability, Ethical Practices

Ted and Louis Hole bought a small farm in St. Albert, Alberta, in 1952 knowing only that they wanted to build a future for the Hole family. Armed with a degree in agriculture and a strong conviction, the pair grew the farm into Hole’s Greenhouses and Gardens Ltd. (HGG), one of Canada’s largest garden centers. Louis Hole authored 14 gardening books along the way, and the Hole family continues to uphold the values of family, community and ethical entrepreneurship through its latest effort: the Enjoy Centre.

Despite the company’s success, the Hole family acknowledges that its true purpose was only identified through trial, error and a little bit of luck. The Holes tried everything – including raising wheat crops, turkey, cattle and pigs – but it was only after a passerby spotted Louis’ garden and asked to purchase some of the vegetables that the Holes recognized their niche. After 20 years of vegetable farming, Louis and Ted turned the company over to sons Bill and Jim, who carry on their traditions-.

By 2007 the family was ready to recommit to the Hole philosophy that every business model should enrich the community. Ultimately, the Hole’s plans took the form of the Enjoy Centre, a mixed-use green development space with a new HGG garden center, event space and commercial retail space for like-minded businesses.

“We knew from day one that we wanted to build an icon of sustainable design and a destination for a new generation of consumers who feel strongly about sustainability and community,” asserts Bill Hole, president and co-owner of HGG.

Commerce that Cares

The Hole family decided to move the facility from its original 200-acre plot to a 10-acre site strategically located along Anthony Hendey Drive, which provides a direct route to the Enjoy Centre from Edmonton and the surrounding area. And the site is also located across the street from the Louis Hole Centennial Provincial Park, which was dedicated to the Hole family matron in honor of her contributions to the community. “Obviously we felt the site would be advantageous for us to reach our target demographic, but the sentimental aspect was equally as important,” admits Bill.

The Holes partnered with Ernst von Meijenfeldt of EVM Design Inc., a locally based architecture firm, to design the 242,000-square foot facility. The third floor houses HGG offices, leaving the ground and first floors for the retailers and event space. At the center of it all lies the HGG greenhouse, where the Hole family continues to provide its agricultural and botanical expertise to the community, as well as provide potted plants, shrubs, perennials and floral arrangements.

The Enjoy Centre has been designed for visitors to relax, reflect and reconnect with the community. The centre includes a show garden, the Water Garden Spa & Wellness Retreat, the Amaranth Whole Foods Market and the Sandy View Farms Delicatessen, which commits to using only responsibly raised and natural meat products. The space is also home to Liquid Spirits, purveyor of fine wines, spirits and beer, as well as the Prairie Bistro, a contemporary bistro focusing on wholesome, seasonally inspired dishes with flavours from around the world. Patrons can pop in for a quick bite to eat or unwind in the bistro’s garden setting overlooking Big Lake.

The Enjoy Centre’s event space sprawls across 1,300 square meters underneath 9-meter-high glass ceilings to flood the space with sunlight during the day and offer a little moonlight after dark. The space can comfortably seat between 500 and 600 guests, and the Park Room, a small meeting room off to the side, can accommodate smaller parties around 100 guests. “Our event center has really taken off beyond all our expectations,” admits Bill. “The meeting room was originally intended to be a staff room, but we decided to refinish it to accommodate smaller parties because of the interest in the space.”

In lieu of the event centers overwhelmingly positive reception, HGG’s floral arrangement service has also taken off. Centerpieces are complimentary for every dinner table, but customers also have the ability to order arrangements online through HGG’s website, which has helped grow the division significantly.

Today and Tomorrow

Though the newly completed center did not pursue LEED certification, energy efficiency and sustainability were critical components for the design process. The facility’s glass paneling is insulated for better energy efficiency, and a rainwater collection system supplements the greenhouse’s supply and reduces runoff.

The plan originally called for a greywater system that would recycle wastewater generated from domestic activities, such as laundry or dishwashing, that are separate from the sewage treatment and can be filtered and purified through landscape irrigation. The HGG team partnered with Beaverbrook Developments, a nearby residential development, to supply it with its greywater, but ultimately the plans fell through because of insufficient legislation.

In the coming years the HGG team will begin to settle into its new space and establish the Enjoy Centre as a commercial center of a very different breed and as a gathering space for the community. In December 2011 the province announced it would move ahead with plans to construct a pedway from the Enjoy Centre to the Louis Hole Centennial Provincial Park, which strengthens the link between both properties and ensures continued access to the wetlands. As a new partnership of like-minded business settle into a new home, Hole Greenhouse and Gardens Ltd. takes pride in continuing on in the positive, proactive tradition of Ted and Louis.