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Employees take ownership of Gardener's Supply Co. - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Employees take ownership of Gardener's Supply Co.

Burlington, Vermont - December 21, 2009

This was an historic day for the Gardener's Supply Company in Burlington.

The firm's 250-full-time employees officially became the owners of the company. Gardener's Supply is the latest business to officially join the growing ranks of so-called ESOP's, short for Employee Stock Ownership Program.

"Today I am very happy to announce that I have sold the majority ownership of Gardener's Supply to our employees," said founder Will Rapp.

For Gardener's Supply founder Will Raap, transferring ownership of the company he founded 27 years ago to his employees is the culmination of a dream.

"So that our company can move on as a 100-percent employee owned company," said Rapp.

The transfer could not have come at a better time for the employees. Many told us most earn livable wages of $30,000 to $45,000 at a time when other companies have cut back. They say every employee knows their efforts have an immediate impact on pay and retirement plans.

"Not only our paycheck every two weeks. It's our stock, the value of our stock. If our stock goes down, then the price of our shares go down," said employee Sherry Ceresa.

The company has two retail outlets in Vermont, one in Burlington and one is Williston. But these days most of the sales are generated through by its website. Fifty employees take e-mail and phone orders from a list of 1 million customers worldwide.

Will Raap says Gardener's Supply had a great year in 2009. He projects the company will gross about $75 million; 60-percent of the sales are in the Spring and Summer, 40-percent are seasonal at this time of year.

"We're going to have probably one of our most profitable years this year," said Rapp.

Rapp says the international economic slump actually helped Gardener's Supply sales, because families are looking for ways to cut their budgets and growing their own food is one way they do it.

"The business has never been in better shape. The world has never been more in need of what we offer," said Rapp.

That's a prospect that inspires pure excitement for the new owners who will now share 100-percent of the pie.

Brian Joyce - WCAX News

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