When Leo K.L. Tjon decided to open up My Garden & Beyond next door to his restaurant, Ming Yat, he wanted to combine his love of meeting people and gardening.
“I enjoy working in my yard. I believe you have to enjoy what you’re doing and that’s why I enjoy having this business,” he said.
My Garden & Beyond opened last year and features a variety of planters that come from China, including stone lite fiber, ceramic and porcelain planters.
The stone lite fiber planters are the most popular, said Tjon. The molds are made out of fiberglass and are coated with real stone.
“You have the earthy look and stone feel,” he said. “It’s lightweight, so it’s easy to move.”
Tjon travels to China twice a year. He goes in February to purchase items for the spring and in September to purchase items for the fall.
He spends about a week in China each time traveling to different villages to see what they have to offer and choosing items to ship back to the U.S., he said.
“Each village will make a different style so they won’t compete with each other,” he said. “You can see so many different designs.”
To ensure that he offers a variety of designs for his customers, he doesn’t choose more than five sets of the same design, he said, noting that in his shop, he has about 300 different planter designs.
“I think it distinguishes this business from all the others,” he said. “You don’t get just a couple of designs here. You get a variety and I think that’s what my customers like the most and why they keep coming back.”
During each trip, he tries to purchase enough items to fill a 20-foot container to ship back to the U.S., and one-third of them are items that were pre-ordered by his customers, he said.
“Often they will tell me what they are looking for so when I go, I try to find it. If I find it, I give them a call to let them know what the cost will be and if they are OK with it, then I get it,” he said.
Honesty and personalized service are the keys to a successful business, Tjon said.
“I am always up front with my customers and I make sure the prices are reasonable and fair,” he said “That’s the best way to do business.”