If you’ve been to Sandy Springs, you’ve probably driven past Grandma B’s Home and Garden store. It is the two small white houses surrounded by flowers and shrubs on Hammond Drive, just two blocks east of Roswell Road. Lisa Bartlett opened Grandma B’s in one of these houses in 2009, and eventually added a home store in the space next door. Now the acre+ complex is a welcoming collection of seasonal plants, flowers, and more. I sat down with Mrs. Bartlett recently to find out what makes Grandma B tick.
Bartlett had formal design training in college, and built a successful career in interior design for the hotel industry. She says that wasn’t her original plan. “The specialty in hotels was kind of a fluke. I interned with some great firms in college, and got exposed to it then.” Bartlett chose to move to the southeast because of the mild climate. “I got in with a great, great firm [in Atlanta], and they were just so good to me. The rest is history.” She opened her own firm after a few years, and ran a successful design business for 15 years.
The travel involved in the hotel business eventually took its toll, and Mrs. Bartlett turned to a passion she had grown up with. She says, “I took a couple years off and put it in my garden.” Her first memories of plants and gardening involve her grandmother. Bartlett remembers her grandmother’s small but beautiful garden, “She had the most magnificent gardens. Very humble, but the health of the flowers was just over the top. I probably got a little bit of my green thumb from her.” Bartlett also credits her father for her informal, hands-on gardening education. She describes growing up on a farm with her dad, “Our daily routine was outside gardening, [tending] vegetables or flowers, cutting fields, or cutting lawns.”
It was a natural progression for Mrs. Bartlett to combine her formal design training and her passion for gardening. She told me that the business soon expanded in a way she hadn’t originally planned, “We started out with just the gift & garden shop and landscaping. Very quickly, we found that in order to maintain our landscaping and design & build business, we were going to have to provide maintenance services.” It was apparent that she would need to control that aspect of the landscaping in order to meet her clients’ and her own expectations. Bartlett is clear that Gramma B’s only services her design clients, “I only provide maintenance for people that we provide design and build services for, because I’m a control freak and that way I can maintain the quality.” She believes the quality and personal service is why clients keep coming back and referring their friends, “My customers love it because they have one person to call for everything. Whether it’s landscaping, hardscaping, water features, maintenance, irrigation, lighting, Christmas…. they call us.”
Bartlett and her family have lived in Sandy Springs for over 25 years, and she says the decision to open Grandma B’s in Sandy Springs was an easy one. “We’ve lived here in Sandy Springs for so long. I just knew that there was a need for it.” The community embraced the business, and Bartlett says her business grows each year. Perhaps the most unusual thing about Grandma B’s continued success is the fact that Mrs. Bartlett does NO marketing. No ads, no social media… nothing. Grandma B’s grows year over year thanks solely to repeat customers and word of mouth. Bartlett says, “We still have two handfuls or more of customers that we started with in 2009, that we still maintain their properties. They move and they take us with them, and then the new people that bought the house keep us. It’s been in a great organic process.”
Mrs. Bartlett considers her business simple, if not exactly easy, “You just do what you say you’re gonna do. It is difficult because it’s physical labor, but it’s a very simple business model.” She adds, “You have to be really super hands on and involved. It’s not for everybody, it’s not a business that you can just grow and turn over quickly to somebody [else].” And after 13 years in Sandy Springs, Gramdma B’s clients know they can count on Lisa Bartlett for her quality and service, “If I’m happy, usually they’re pretty happy.”