Gaze Seed, standing the test of thyme for 97 years
Posted on September 30, 2022 | By Alexander Chafe | 2 Comments
Situated in downtown St. John’s, N.L. for almost a century, Gaze Seed has stood the test of time. While product offerings and ownership have changed over the years, the focus of the business remains true to its roots.
Ernest Walter Gaze, the founder of Gaze Seed, originally opened a grocery store on Water Street in St. John’s, Newfoundland. In 1925, he shifted focus to seeds, which officially marked the beginning of Gaze Seed Company.
The store was the first of its kind on the island, selling vegetable and flower seeds, along with fertilizer, soil and other gardening supplies. Gaze Seed became a one-stop shop for farmers and novice kitchen gardeners who grew their own food (a common practice in the early 20th century). In the 1950s, Ernest began also selling budgie birds, canaries, tropical fish and items for their care, as a means to offset the seasonality of the seed business.
Eventually, Gaze outgrew its building on Water Street and replanted to Buchanan Street. And in 1987, Gaze Seed was sold to someone outside the family who took over the business.
In 2014, Peter Byrne, Ernest’s great-grandson, decided on a whim to visit Gaze Seed to see how business was doing. When inside, he was surprised to see that very little had changed in over 25 years. The store still had the same carpet, equipment and furniture once owned by his grandparents. Wanting to preserve the family business, Peter decided to purchase the store and bring it to the 21st century.
Peter worked with a local marketing agency to rebrand Gaze Seed with a fresh logo, new website and name change. The store became “The Seed Company by E.W. Gaze” and the new logo included an illustration of Ernest himself. Byrne also hired Jackson McLean, a marketer and passionate home gardener, to help manage the business.
Together, Peter and Jackson modernized The Seed Company. In 2015, they started selling products online (which now accounts for about half of annual sales), old cash registers were upgraded to a modern point of sale system and promotion became digital. Social media is currently a large part of their marketing, including a Facebook group with about 60,000 members.
However, with all the changes, The Seed Company continues to focus on providing quality products and knowledgable staff who “are passionate about helping customers and giving the best advice”.
Located in the old Templeton’s building on Harbour Drive since 2019, business continues at The Seed Company. With expanded product offerings that include herbs, a very popular Jiggs Dinner Seed Kit and locally-produced knitwear, jewelry and cards, growth continues. Peter remains the sole owner of the business and works with his son, who represents the fifth generation.
Commenting on the success of the brand’s refresh, Peter says: “we’ve managed to turn Gaze Seed into a year-round business with online sales and our expanded selection of products in-store. Our winter months are just as busy as the spring months.”
Still growing strong after 97 years.
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