Family Cultivates a Business That Bucks the Trend
Fact is, 2008 was a challenging year for many businesses. It was the start of the Great Recession, ignited by the crashing housing market and a perfect storm of other factors that made it difficult for businesses to get by. Growth wasn’t exactly an option for everyone.
But for George and Cathy Vogt, 2008 was the year their small family business got bigger. Much bigger.
It was that year they took George’s Market & Nursery from a roadside stand on Route 7 in Latham, NY, to an 11,000-square-foot garden center. With business firmly rooted in the community that helped sustain it since the 1950s, George’s Market was ready to add more products and services for its loyal customers.
One of those customers was Bob Bazargan, Vice President of Commercial Lending for Community Bank, N.A.
“It was a very scary economy to go into a new business during the recession, but Bob really talked us off the ledge and kept us on track,” George said.
That year, the Vogts sold their original location to the New York State Police for $8 million. The sale—along with Bazargan’s guidance—gave them what they needed to finance a new 11,000-square-foot garden center. Scaling up came with its concerns, but George and Cathy found confidence in Bazargan’s support. He worked alongside their attorney and accountant to make sure it was the right deal for their business.
“Bob’s been around a long time and he knows the trials and tribulations of this type of business,” George said. “We’re closed during January and February each year, and it can be tough with that kind of seasonality.”
Even with the faltering economy, George’s Market was able to thrive thanks to the personal relationships that had been established over the years. The Vogts donate generously year after year to various community events and groups, and the community has responded in kind with loyalty rather than turning to big-box options. Cathy sees Community Bank carry a similar commitment to community and admits it’s a major reason why she likes working with them.
“It’s a true hometown bank,” she said. “When we call Bob with an issue or question, he picks up the phone, tells us what he thinks and we talk through it until we all feel comfortable about it. It makes us feel important to him and to the bank.”
Business went so well that the Vogts opened a second location in 2014 called George’s Market & Café—a boutique shop just seven miles down the road. Today, they employ more than 40 people and their two children have taken on leadership roles in the company. Their daughter, Lauren, owns and runs the new store, while their son, George Jr., runs the landscaping side of the business. The family’s obvious passion for maintaining the values that got them this far is another reason customers come back year after year.
“George and Cathy are genuine salt-of-the-earth people,” Bazargan said. “They provide a great service, reinvest in the community every chance they get, and it means a lot to me to have helped them grow.”