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Pacific Daily News
The pandemic’s impact on tourism, and the recent legalization of recreational cannabis on island, presented an opportunity for a Guam couple to turn their home gardening hobby into a new business — selling gardening supplies and equipment often hard to find on island or hasn’t been sold here.
India Sekiguchi, and her husband, Ken, last November started Back to Nature — Gardening & Hydroponics after their tourism-related wholesale business, which has been operating since 2007, was hit by the pandemic shutdown. Their wholesale business sells snack food, wine and beer, she said.
“My husband’s always loved gardening. I actually went to an agricultural high school, in Australia,” said India Sekiguchi, who grew up in Yigo and returned to island more than a decade ago. “We both love plants and animals, and we thought now would be the perfect time to surround ourselves with plants and animals.”
They turned their wholesale warehouse, on Pick-A-Nail Road, in Tamuning, into a retail gardening store, dealing directly with customers for the first time.
“Our conference room became our little boutique shop for high-end nutrients, fertilizers, succulent planters,” she said.
Back to Nature — Gardening & Hydroponics occupies a converted warehouse space on Pick-A-Nail Road, in Tamuning. India Sekiguchi, and her husband, Ken, last November started the storew after their tourism-related wholesale business was hit by the pandemic shutdown. (Photo: Steve Limtiaco/PDN)
Dedicated to gardening
“We’re the first dedicated gardening center,” she said. “There’s no distraction here. There’s no construction material. We are pure, 100% garden-focused.”
The store has a large inventory of high-quality potting soil in stock, as well as additional fertilizers and inert material to create custom soil mixes. The soil is brought in by container-load, she said, which allows it to be sold at a lower price.
The store sells hydroponic growing systems, hard-to-find seeds for Asian vegetables and potted plants, including strawberry plants. The strawberry plants grow outdoors and produce fruit without dying, India Sekiguchi said, but she recommends keeping them in pots instead of planting them in the ground.
The variety of available products in the store continues to grow, based on customer input. India Sekiguchi said if a customer asks her about something once, she notes it. If another customer asks about the same thing, she orders it.
“We really feel that we’ve struck a chord with a lot of people on Guam. Their reactions tell everything when they walk into the store. A lot of people are saying it’s like a religious experience for them,” she said.
Back to Nature — Gardening & Hydroponics opened last November after the tourism shutdown disrupted a wholesale business owned by Ken and India Sekiguchi. (Photo: Steve Limtiaco/PDN)
Supplies for different types of gardeners are grouped in separate areas of the store. Equipment preferred by customers who grow cannabis — grow tents, LED grow lights and ventilation systems — is displayed on the second floor, which is accessed by climbing a metal ladder.
Guam in April 2019 legalized recreational cannabis on island, allowing residents 21 and older to grow and consume cannabis at home. It must be grown indoors, however.
“With the (cannabis) legislation coming about the same time as the pandemic, and the whole phenomenon of pandemic gardening, … we’ve just been hit up by everyone who loves to grow,” India Sekiguchi said. “And we welcome people, no matter what they’re growing — whether it be cannabis, orchids, succulents, vegetable patches.”
Sekiguchi said Back to Nature is about to start a partnership with the Guam Department of Agriculture, as part of a project to help residents restore habitat for native bird species. The store will help grow native plant species and distribute them at workshops, where information will be provided about plants and birds.
“If Guam wants to emulate Saipan, Rota, these other islands that have had successful bird reintroduction programs, we have to bring back the plants that the birds eat,” she said. “We can’t just bring back the birds and expect them to eat these introduced plants. They want to eat the native species.”
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