Is it too obvious to say that Dale Bachman is a down-to-earth guy?
The genial president of Bachman’s, Inc., the Minneapolis-based gardening retailer and wholesaler, Bachman is part of the fourth generation to manage his family’s business. While the 120-year-old company is one of the best known in the Twin Cities—and thriving in a field that propagates magazines and cable-television shows by the dozen—Bachman’s has never let itself get too comfortable. Dale Bachman watches the interests of his customers with as much care as his greenhouse managers shower on their seedlings.
“I think customers are more sophisticated today in their knowledge of gardening,” Bachman says. “I think that there’s more interest in utilizing the outdoor space than there used to be. The home is growing outside,” through the creation of “outdoor rooms.”
Trends were different back when Henry and Hattie Bachman founded the company as newlyweds in 1885. They grew vegetables on four rural acres that were later annexed by Minneapolis. Over time, they expanded their property on South Lyndale Avenue and gave each of their five sons one bench in the greenhouse where he could raise whatever he chose. Albert’s decision in 1914 to grow carnations for sale got a skeptical response from his brothers, but ultimately set the business on its present course.
By the 1950s, when Dale Bachman was growing up, a third generation, his father’s, had taken the reins. Bachman’s had four retail floral shops in addition to the Lyndale Avenue location, and its purple packaging had become an unmistakable brand signature. The company sold cut flowers at Dayton’s department store under the Dayton’s Flowers by Bachman’s label. In 1968, it expanded on that idea, opening its first European Flower Market kiosk to sell flowers at the Byerly’s grocery store in Golden Valley.
Dale Bachman graduated in 1972 from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in plant and soil science. He joined the family business that year, in time to see its floral operations—the ones his grandfather Albert had pioneered—undergo substantial change. The European Flower Market kiosks, which had become a presence in many local grocery, department, and discount stores, had been sold in 1971 to Pillsbury. (The Minnesota locations were eventually sold back to Bachman’s, which still has about a dozen Flowers by Bachman’s locations in Twin Cities Byerly’s stores.) Meanwhile, Bachman’s long-established retail shops in local malls were being squeezed out of their prime locations by national competitors.